Wigan Athletic 2 Chorley 3
Where Do We Go From Here?
After a first round FA Cup defeat to National League North side Chorley, it feels pretty tough to be a Wigan Athletic fan right now, especially when your wife and her whole family are from Chorley.
Cruising at 2-0 and not looking in any danger of slipping on the potential banana skin thrown in our path, academy centre-back Adam Long was sent off for a foul on Chorley forward Harry Cardwell and the next 75 minutes just went from bad to worse.
Having seen the side that manager John Sheridan had selected I never once thought we would lose this game, and the first half didn’t do anything to change my opinion. A close-range strike from Joe Garner and a beauty from Tom James had given us a two-goal lead, and while we weren’t creating a mass of chances, we were dominating possession and looked more than comfortable. Then on 41 minutes, Long was sent off for bringing down Harry Cardwell when the Magpies striker looked through on goal and at that moment I messaged a friend to say we would lose this. You just knew that with no replacement to bring on, the changes we had to make and the inexperience in our side that we wouldn’t hang on to the lead we had.
Under Paul Cook there was a period of games in which we would concede inside the first five minutes of the second half and rip up everything that would have been discussed during the break, and that is something which has again crept into our play. Away defeats to MK Dons and Blackpool were two games from memory in which we went from being level at the break to behind within minutes of the restart. Today we conceded three minutes into the second half to give Chorley hope when we needed to keep things tight for as long as possible after the red card to sap the belief from them that they could win this; and then when the game went into extra time we conceded inside two minutes to give them the lead. Our concentration levels are just non-existent which makes the task at hand even harder.
With everything that is going on with the club at the moment we probably shouldn’t have too many expectations, but it just feels like kick in the teeth after kick in the teeth. We have a squad that is mainly made up of academy players, league two players and players that nobody wants. We have an injury crisis that typically has hit the actual experienced and half decent players that we have meaning that our options are cut even more thin than they already are. Take the sending off today for example. We lose a centre back and rather than bring on a replacement defender, we have to bring on a midfielder, move our right back to centre back and play a winger at right back. On top of that, the player we brought on is a kid making just his 5th or 6th career appearance. Sheridan called this the worst defeat of his career, but with the make-up of the squad and the poor run of form we are currently going through, I don’t think that is fair. We should have been able to hang on having been two goals to the good, but when we are making the sorts of mistakes that we are at the moment and confidence is clearly as fragile as it is, conceding an early goal was always going to lead to trouble.
Today was not the worst defeat we have ever suffered (the Canvey Island one was far worse than this) and it certainly won’t be the last “embarrassing” defeat we suffer during this tough period in our history, but I do feel as though we are guilty of looking at how things were before this happened. We are not that Wigan Athletic anymore apart from in name only. The club is a very very different place now and it will be for a long time. Even if we end up with a buyer that has billions in the bank, the new salary caps in Leagues One and Two coupled with Financial Fair Play rules mean we won’t simply be able to buy our way back to where we were before Choi and his mate decided to pull the plug. This will be a long and arduous process with many bumps along the way as our friends from Horwich are finding out towards the bottom end of League Two. In 12 months’ time that will more than likely be ourselves looking over our shoulders at the exit door from the Football League, and who knows we may even meet Chorley again in the very near future. The only thing we should be focussed on right now is having a football club to support in 2021 and beyond. At this moment in time though, it’s tough to look at anything other than another defeat.
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