Double delight still on the cards Wigan Athletic after draw with Rotherham United


Leam Richardson’s Wigan Athletic side have double success firmly in their sights as we approach the end of this season, flying high in League One and just 90 minutes away from a trip to Wembley in the Papa John’s Trophy. 

Last Friday, the Latics took a point away at Rotherham United in a 1-1 draw, with frontman Stephen Humphrys on target again midway through the first half at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Although his former Rochdale teammate Ollie Rathbone scored for the table-topping Millers to deny the visitors all three points, a title lift for Wigan is still very much achievable with a third of their campaign remaining.

Games in hand

That statement is made in the knowledge that Richardson’s side currently sit six points behind Rotherham, but have two games in hand on Paul Warne’s side and three on third-placed MK Dons who already trail the Latics by three points.

In fact, Wigan have only played 30 games to date and that total is the fewest of any team in the third tier. Re-arranged games at home to Fleetwood Town and Accrington Stanley are to come as well as away trips to Crewe Alexandra and Portsmouth.

Added to this, should they reach the final of the Papa John’s Trophy, the Latics’ home game against Bolton Wanderers on April 2nd will also have to be re-arranged. Similarly though, Rotherham will have to find a new date for their trip to Portsmouth should they earn a trip to Wembley as they are also in the semi-finals of the competition.

With so many games in hand, the pressure will not be on Wigan in the first instance and it will in fact be on the Millers who are being hunted down. If Rotherham slip up at any point, Richardson’s side will have the opportunity to make ground and eventually overtake them.

Of course, the argument is there that if the Millers do not slip up by the time Wigan’s games in hand come around, then the pressure is back on the Latics. In the same vein, there is a discussion to be had around the ‘burnout’ of players with so many matches in a short space of time.

That extra bit of energy should not be difficult to find though when silverware is up for grabs.

Looking ahead at the fixtures

Football like most sports is never clear-cut and is definitely not always ‘as it should be’ on paper, but it is inevitable those assumptions that are going to be made and the assumption is that Wigan should be beating most of their remaining opponents in the league this season.

With 16 games left for the Latics, nine of the teams they are set to face are currently in 12th place or lower. Included in those are Morecambe and Crewe, both of whom are in the relegation zone and look in real trouble.

Rotherham meanwhile take on seven teams who are 12th or lower at present between now and the end of the season.

With 14 games left, that is exactly half of their opposition but that includes Shrewsbury Town twice as the Millers face Steve Cotterill’s side in quick succession. For reference, Salop currently sit 18th in the league, four points off the bottom four.

While these statistics are a good indication of who Wigan ‘should’ be beating, the Latics will undoubtedly fancy their chances against anyone in the division given just how much of a frontrunner they are now and have been all season.

The Squad

In truth, with the squad that Richardson has assembled at the DW Stadium, anything but promotion should and will be deemed as a failure.

One-time FA Cup winners, Wigan only received an amount of £500,000 for one player, Kyle Joseph, over the summer and winter transfer windows but brought in 20 players including recognised names such as Max Power, James McClean and Charlie Wyke. The latter of course suffered a cardiac arrest and is not in action at the moment.

Midfielder Graeme Shinnie was picked from liquidation-threatened Derby County last month, with out of favour Josh Magennis being taken from Hull City to bolster Wigan’s attacking options.

All of the above and many more within the squad have vast experience of the third division and higher so the Latics’ success this season comes as no surprise whatsoever.

Relegated from the Premier League in 2013, Wigan are far from a return to the promised land but promotion this season would obviously take them one step closer.

Cup Glory

For all involved at the club and their supporters, the FA Cup final win against Manchester City in 2013 is undoubtedly the most famous victory in Wigan’s history.

Only a few weeks later, they were brought back down to earth with Premier League relegation, and after a penalty shootout semi-final defeat in the FA Cup to Arsenal the following season, the Latics have never returned to the ‘home of football’.

However this season, they more than likely will. A home tie against Football League newcomers Sutton United in the last four stands between Wigan and a day out at Wembley despite playing a much-changed side throughout the competition.

That perhaps shows the strength in depth at the DW Stadium and just why double delight could well be on the cards.

They could go up against fellow League One title challengers Rotherham on the grand stage, with the Millers also up against League Two opposition in Hartlepool United in the last four of the competition.

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