Wigan are on course for a memorable season in their bid to return to the Championship. The Latics were relegated to the third tier in the last campaign and were nine points adrift of safety at the end of the term.
However, Paul Cook has re-energised the club and has already produced one of Wigan’s greatest results by dumping Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City out of the FA Cup to reach the quarter-finals of the competition. It does not eclipse the triumph under Roberto Martinez in 2013 when the Latics won the FA Cup but it will hold pride of place in the careers of those players that defeated the Citizens at the DW Stadium.
Cook will be looking for the result to provide a surge of momentum to ensure a return to the Championship even if they are unable to advance further in the FA Cup this term.
Wigan have been in contention throughout the term and topped the table for a nine-week spell.
The competition at the top of League One has resulted in them slipping back into the playoff places. However, Cook’s men are more than capable of a late-season surge to surpass pre-season favourites for the League One crown, Blackburn.
The recent 2-2 draw at Ewood Park highlighted that there is nothing between the sides, with Michael Jacobs and Max Power driving the Latics back in the second half to secure a valuable point on the road.
Not only was the fightback impressive but it also prevented Blackburn pulling away at the top of the table. The race seems certain to go down to the wire and it will be enthralling as the season reaches its climax. We’ll now look back at the crucial results of the term and the matches that could define Wigan’s promotion fate.
After the disaster of relegation for the club, it was imperative that the new regime enjoyed a good start to its reign. The Latics were handed a decent test on the road against Milton Keynes Dons, who were a solid outfit in the previous term in League One. Nick Powell scored the only goal of the game as Wigan held out for a win, despite Callum Eder’s dismissal, although he was joined by the Dons’ Scott Wootton in the second half.
The opening home match of the campaign was equally important and Cook’s men rose to the occasion with a 4-1 hammering of Bury, with Powell notching a brace.
The first setback of the term came at the hands of Shrewsbury on the road. Stefan Payne scored the only goal of the match to condemn Wigan to their first league defeat. The character was tested, but they responded with a three-match winning streak, starting with a fine 3-0 victory over Charlton as Gavin Massey notched a brace. Another test came when Peterborough snatched the three points at London Road. Cook’s men answered the bell with a four-game winning streak, including a brilliant win on the road against Scunthorpe, playing the final 34 minutes with 10 men.
Bradford were the first team to beat Wigan at the DW Stadium as Tyrell Robinson scored a late winner. Cook’s men proved their mettle once again in the term in their most dominant stretch of the season, reeling off five-straight victories. They crushed AFC Wimbledon and Oxford United, putting seven goals past the latter on the road at the Kassam Stadium.
The club were on the summit of the table before being knocked off in a spell of back-to-back defeats to Southend and Blackpool. However, in the following match from their loss to the Tangerines, they defeated Man City before overcoming Rochdale. As proven throughout the term, this Wigan team has character aplenty.
The Latics have a favourable run towards the end of the season, facing just two sides in the top six in the remaining 14 matches of the campaign. Scunthorpe will present a fierce test along with Rotherham United, but both games are at the DW Stadium, which hands Cook’s men a massive advantage heading into the contests. Only Rotherham and Blackburn have a superior record at home than Wigan, which they will look to preserve and improve against their rivals.
The Rotherham match could be season-defining, although there are four matches left in the term after the showdown with the Millers. Those games are favourable to Cook’s men against four of the bottom teams in the division. Wigan put seven past Oxford in their match at the Kassam Stadium. The U’s will be the next side the Latics face after the Rotherham match, therefore, the team have either the perfect opportunity to kick on or bounce back from an underwhelming result.
Wigan’s campaign ends with matches against Fleetwood, who are embroiled in a fierce battle against the drop. AFC Wimbledon and Doncaster are the final two matches of the season, and both of those sides are currently out of the drop zone. However, given the tight nature of the relegation picture, they could easily get dragged into the mire between now and the final two weeks of the term.
Although it will be a tough battle against those teams, it’s much simpler than facing sides pushing for promotion at the top end of the table. Cook’s men have proven their character over the course of the season and it would be stunning to see them slip up late in the campaign.
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