Latics welcome Fleetwood to the DW on Saturday afternoon in the eighth League One game of the season.
I would imagine that Gary Caldwell will expect an immediate response following the pulsating, yet disappointing 3-2 defeat at Port Vale, particularly in defence where poorly conceded goals have cost us yet again. The injury-time winner was a real kick in the teeth, although it almost felt inevitable after Leon Barnett went from hero to zero in just six minutes with the red card that left us vulnerable at the back.
You cannot entirely blame Barnet given that there was little he could do as the striker cut across his path, but Wigan had already given themselves a steep hill to climb after going 2-0 down. The defeat should not be considered as a disaster given we are only seven games into the season and reasonably placed just outside the play-off spots, but I feel there are still areas of our game that Caldwell needs to work on before we can feel confident that Wigan will bounce back into the Championship at the first attempt.
Facing Fleetwood at the DW may suit us perfectly, considering that the team have kept three consecutive clean sheets with only Bury on the opening day of the season managing to score at our ground. That is not to say that we should not under-estimate Fleetwood, and although I feel that Wigan will likely be considered favourites with Bookies.com, Graham Alexander’s men do have the quality to cause problems and could make the most of Barnett’s suspension.
The Cod Army have, however, struggled away from Highbury Stadium, with defeats at Doncaster and Oldham illustrating that Fleetwood could be there for the taking, but only if we put in a good performance and correct the defensive mistakes that I feel have denied us the opportunity to be much higher up the table.
I feel it will be interesting to see how Caldwell reshapes the defence, but it feels inevitable that Craig Morgan will come back into the team as a like-for-like swap for Barnett if we stick with three centre-backs and two full-backs. The system just didn’t feel right at Port Vale as we probably gave them more respect than was required, but I believe we should be much more positive on home soil and revert to a back four to give us more options further up the pitch.
I also feel that Will Grigg should come straight back into the team ahead of Haris Vukic who hasn’t really clicked with Craig Davies upfront; we have seen glimpses of what the Newcastle loanee can offer, but he seems to be one of those players who will excite and frustrate you in equal measures.
Part of me hopes that Morgan in place of Barnett is not the only change that is made from the XI that started at Port Vale as I think we need a more positive approach at the DW in place of a 5-3-2. I have no problem with the midfield trio of Chris McCann, Michael Jacobs and David Perkins who are probably the best in League One, but bringing Sean Murray back into the fold instead of Morgan and going 4-4-2 (or 4-3-3 as Murray has the pace to be effective out wide) would be the sort of move that would make fans feel encouraged that Caldwell is being pro-active with his tactics.
I would be more inclined to back the team on Bookies.com if Grigg is selected to play alongside Davies as, although they have only scored three goals between them so far, they do appear to be forming a nice understanding that could be pivotal in collecting the three points I feel we need against Fleetwood.
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