Just 4 days after snatching a vital win at Birmingham on Tuesday, Wigan are back in action with another crucial six-pointer. I feel like I am overusing this term to describe Latics’ plight at the moment, but such is the situation that Latics find themselves in. Confidence will be high after the hard fought 1-0 win at St Andrews, but can Wigan find home comforts at the DW stadium after only 3 home wins all season?
What happened at St Andrews?
Latics lined up much as they have done all season, with Will Grigg sitting on the bench and a relatively safe, but hard to break down, midfield. Joyce preferred to employ a conservative 5-4-1 formation which has served the team relatively well on the road this season, picking up 5 wins, 2 more than at home. The match itself was not much of a spectacle in all honesty, with Wigan creating few chances and centre-half, Dan Burn, getting the decisive goal after 18 minutes. Thereafter, it was largely Birmingham applying the pressure, but they failed to create any clear cut chances, though they were perhaps unfortunate not to get a penalty for a Connelly handball in the last ten minutes. All in all, it was a solid performance from Wigan, but more importantly they found themselves on the right side of a close match, which hasn’t happened enough this season.
The lack of chances created will continue to be a worry, but if the results can return for the end of the season, then few Latics fans will complain.
Will Wigan stay up?
There is no denying that the 2016/17 season has been a struggle for Wigan. Fans were hoping for a comfortable mid-table finish; with the budget of the team being around the middle range in the Championship, alongside some highly rated young players, who were carrying form from the title winning last season. However, with only 10 games remaining, the club finds itself 2 points adrift of safety, Wolves being the nearest team to safety. Usually in the Championship 50 points is considered to be the safety mark, and it’s unlikely to be different this season. That means that Wigan still need to collect 16 points from the last 10 games, a relatively high number. In simple terms, 5 wins and a draw or 4 wins and 4 draws has to be the benchmark for Latics. With Wolves hosting the basement club Rotherham this weekend, it puts huge pressure on Wigan to beat Bristol City. In fact, if they fail to win, or God forbid lose, then it’s unlikely that Wigan will be a Championship side next year.
Wigan have a very mixed set of fixtures in the final 10 games with winnable home games against Rotherham and Barnsley coupled with very tough away games at Newcastle, Reading and Brighton. It seems that if Wigan are to stay up then wins against Bristol City, Rotherham and Barnsley are a must, along with perhaps the trip to mid-table Ipswich. If Wigan are to stay up they could also be relying on other teams to take points off the likes of Blackburn, Bristol City and Wolves.
What about the weekend’s visitors?
Bristol City were Latics’ first opponents in this season’s Championship campaign, with Latics going down 2-1 at Ashton Gate, after a late double from the hosts. At that stage, Bristol City looked like they were in for a comfortable mid-table season at least, and they continued their solid form for the first 12 games of the season. Manager Lee Johnson, son of lower league legend Gary, started as something of a hero, having taken a team on a low budget to the brink of the playoffs, but things have since turned very miserable for the Englishman.
His team have plummeted down the table, and despite the heroics of Chelsea loaned Tammy Abraham, the club currently finds itself in the bottom 3, 1 point and 1 place above Wigan. Fans have become disillusioned with the manager’s substitutions, even booing loudly when Abraham was withdrawn in a recent win against Rotherham. The draw against Norwich City in midweek was just about enough to keep Johnson in a job, but defeat against Wigan is likely to be the final straw. With fans turning their back, and struggles, despite having an 18 goal striker within their ranks, the board is unlikely to retain their patience should they lose on Saturday.
On the pitch goal scoring has not been a problem for City, having scored 45 goals in 36 matches, third in the bottom half after Nottingham Forest (51) and Cardiff (49). However, they have conceded 53 times, 12 more times than Wigan over the same number of games. It is not known whether Abraham will start on Saturday, despite the club announcing he has returned to training in midweek. Don’t be surprised to see him return to action in this huge clash. If he is not deemed fit enough to start, veteran Aaron Wilbraham will deputise. Another noticeable member of their squad is former Wigan winger David Cotterill, who had an unsuccessful spell at the DW in the early Premier League days.
I believe that this match will be more open than previous matches, as both managers know that anything less than a win is a bad result. Victory has the potential to move either side out of the bottom 3, with Blackburn facing a tricky trip East Anglia to play Norwich. However, with other teams having games in hand on Wigan and Bristol City, and with much tougher fixtures lying ahead, both teams need a win. Bristol City are quite an entertaining team, but I think Wigan will have enough to turn them over here. The Latics have failed to win back to back league games since January, and that was the only time they have achieved the feat all season. This would be a perfect time to back up the win at Birmingham with a confident, attacking performance.
Bristol City are in much worse form than Wigan since the turn of the year, and as a result have plummeted. Hopefully, their bad form will continue and Wigan will pick up a vital 3 point haul ahead of next week’s visit of Aston Villa.
Prediction Wigan 2-1 Bristol City