The 2014/15 campaign has already been a long, hard slog for Wigan Athletic, and it is not about to get any easier.

They may have rid themselves of the potential distraction posed by an FA Cup run, but that has only served to narrow the focus on their Championship struggles.

For a side that was dreaming of Wembley and the Premier League less than a year ago, a humbling fall from grace has been endured at the DW Stadium.

They have become firmly stuck in the proverbial rut, with changes in the dugout failing to bring about the desired upturn in fortune.

Malky Mackay will, however, be given time to get things right, even if the outlook appears a little bleak at present.

Marooned in the second-tier relegation zone, five points from safety and with prized assets the subject of unwelcome attention from afar, things might get worse before they get better.

That is not what we Wigan supporters want to hear but the next couple of months are going to be testing, of that there is no doubt.

For those looking for positives, the Latics are going to get plenty of opportunities to get things right and to start turning the corner.

Mackay will guide his troops into battle on 13 occasions before the next international break, with 39 points up for grabs.

The fact that those fixtures will arrive over the course of just nine gruelling weeks suggests that tired minds and legs are going to be an issue, but Wigan need to try and block out the pain.

If they are able to do that then we will be able to catch our breath at the end of March, turn attention to England’s pursuit of a place at Euro 2016 – an event which International football betting now has them as 11/1 fourth favourites to win – sleep a little easier and work on fingernails that have been chewed to the bone.

There is, however, a flip side to every coin.

With there only seven games to come after the final break of the campaign, Wigan could find themselves staring into the abyss by then.

There will be little time in which to make amends from that point, and the fixture computer has not been kind over the run-in.

Of the seven games mentioned, Wigan will stage only three on home soil and face meetings with Derby County, Brentford and Middlesbrough – sides hoping to stage a late surge towards promotion.

Wigan know how that feels and how performance levels can be raised as the Premier League carrot dangles agonisingly out of reach.

It may be that they find themselves back in a similar chase in the not too distant future, but they need to ensure that it is a return to the top-tier that continues to represent the ultimate goal.

A club that worked so hard to drag themselves out of the basement, cement a standing among the elite and taste the highest of highs on FA Cup final day will be wary of taking another step backwards, with the roller coaster existence highlighting how quickly things can change – for better and for worse.

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