England Championship: Preston - Wigan
Having opposed Preston at Brentford last Saturday (L5-0) and at Bournemouth on Tuesday ( won 3-2 in extra time), I have to take them on again today in their third start inside seven days, against a better rested/prepared local rival. Wigan have been at home for ten days and preparing for this for seven, a period through which North End will have spent 17-18 hours on the team bus. They did rotate heavily for the midweek game, but seven played some part in both, the extra time meant most had more game time than would have been viewed as ideal, both games were draining, other players made the journey to the South Coast anyway and preparation for tonight, would have been severly hampered. Of course, they will have been buoyed by the win at Bournemouth, but the events of the last week seem sure to take a toll at some stage this evening and positive thoughts can quickly disappear and memories of the late capitulation at Griffin Park come to the fore, if things do not go their way early.
No cup game for Wigan, they have made priorities clear and this season is all about re-establishing themselves in the Championship and avoiding a relegation battle. They have not made a great job of things so far and sit below Preston in the table, with just five points, but they have goals in them, only eight teams have scored more and last season's League 1 joint top scorer and former Brentford striker Will Grigg has hit the ground running again with four goals at the higher level. They have , or had been putting themselves in good positions and not taking advantage and have dropped 7 points already from winning positions, conceding four goals in the last 12 minutes. They have ended the last two games much better and played promisingly in each, two down at highflying Norwich City inside 11 minutes, they dominated much of the next 75 , pulled a goal back and were close to an equaliser time and time again, with the Canaries on the back foot and under severe pressure. A City supporter described the closing stage thus : "You could tell how the balance had swung when the added time board showed 5 minutes and a groan went up from the City faithful. "From total control we were now hanging on for dear life and McGovern again had to be alert to push a close range header away for a corner. "City struggled to clear it and a Wigan forward looked bound to score but muffed his shot at the City goal only for McGovern to spill it. "Fortunately Olsson, my MOM was alert enough to shepherd the ball away from danger. "The cheers at the final whistle were of relief more than anything else."
They then failed to make the most of several really good chances in a 0-0 draw with Fulham, but there were positives to take from both performances.
The Latics should be fresher of the two today and the free midweek will have given Gary Caldwell more time to work on what he knows has been their shortcomings, he told the club website...........
“I think we are always learning; last year right throughout the season we learned and we improved and got better as the season went on. This year, we have started from a better platform than the one we had the previous season and I think we are improving all of the time. "It is now about turning that into results and that is the most important thing. “Apart from Sheffield Wednesday, I don’t think we have been outplayed in any game, but for a little bit of luck or better concentration defensively, I have no doubt we would have got more points on the board.“We have worked a lot on trying to stop goals because we believe we are a threat going forwards to score goals. "The main focus in training has been on defending but not just from defence, but as a whole team."I thought on Saturday we were excellent against a very good football team and we stopped them doing what they wanted to do by pressing high up the pitch and the forward and midfield players really putting in a high-effort defensive performance in."
I doubt Preston will have been too pleased to see Oliver Langford as referee, they are 0-1-4 in games when he has been in charge and have not scored a single goal in the last four. 2X game for me.
Wigan Athletic level ball 2.16 asian line/Sportmarket
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