Wigan Athletic have had an incredible week as they have severely boosted their survival prospects and taking their unbeaten run up to five.
A couple of months ago, Wigan looked destined for the drop but a recent run of results has seen them climb up to 19th place. They are just three points ahead of Middlesbrough, who occupy that final relegation place, but the Latics’ recent form suggests that they should be looking up and not down.
A 3-0 thumping of Reading started the week off in great fashion for Paul Cook but Saturday’s upset at The Hawthorns saw them claim the biggest scalp of the day. Sam Morsy’s cannoned strike just 17 minutes from time was enough for Wigan, to not only boost their survival chances, but also throw a spanner into the works of the title race, one that Leeds United will be incredibly thankful for.
But perhaps it is next week that will really shape Wigan and their destiny. A home tie with Luton followed by an away day to Danny Cowley’s Huddersfield side will play a huge part in Wigan retaining or conceding their Sky Bet Championship status.
Here’s TWO players in hot form this week and TWO problems that could arise from this winning week for Paul Cook.
Hot: Leon Balogun
Balogun has been a rock at the back for the Latics this week playing his part in back-to-back clean sheets. Not only did the Brighton loanee help keep out one of the best attacking threats the Sky Bet Championship had to offer but he did all of this whilst feeling under the weather, according to Wigan Today.
West Bromwich Albion have scored the most goals in the division with 64 goals in their favour but Wigan were able to keep the door shut. Credit must go to the players at the back: Nathan Byrne, Cedric Kipre and Tom Pearce, who stood firm and were able to keep the Baggies out in what looked like a clash that would only ever swing in favour of the West Midlands side.
The Nigerian international marshalled the Latics to a much more straightforward win at Reading just days before the clash with West Brom. With Reading currently finding themselves getting sucked in towards a relegation fight at the back end of the season, Wigan’s win at the Madejski Stadium was pivotal if they are to get out of trouble themselves.
Hot: Kieffer Moore
Not only is it crucial for Wigan that Kieffer Moore continues to find the net, but also for Wales. The striker will be looking to play his way into Ryan Giggs’ plans for the European Championships this summer and his impressive performances against Reading and West Brom will not have gone unnoticed by the Wales manager.
His finish against Reading on Wednesday night will have earned him many admirers with a deft and cute flick at the front post rolling into the Reading net to set Wigan on their way to three points.
The Welshman put in a fine performance at The Hawthorns keeping both Semi Ajayi and Ahmed Hegazi occupied at all times, which would eventually lead to the Lancashire side taking the lead late on in the game.
Not: Tougher tests to come
Despite two very impressive victories to guide them out of the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone, the Latics will be looking to continue their unbeaten run against sides in and around them.
On Saturday, Paul Cook’s men will host basement boys Luton Town at the DW Stadium. A victory will be vital for not only Wigan to climb further away from the bottom three, but to put a dent in the survival hopes of Luton. Three points on Saturday would take them nine points clear of the Hatters which would provide some much-needed comfort to Wigan supporters.
The following Saturday the Latics make the trip across the Pennines to Yorkshire as they face Huddersfield Town, a side who are currently just two points ahead of Paul Cook’s side. A result against Danny Cowley’s Terriers will go some way to securing their Championship status for next year.
These two games could make or break Wigan’s season and with Stoke, Barnsley, Hull and Charlton still to come, their destiny is very much in their own hands.
Not: Chey Dunkley injury
Chey Dunkley has been a huge part of Wigan’s back line this season but appears to have had his season cut short following a suspected broken leg during Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Reading.
The combative centre-half was stretchered off to a standing ovation from both sets of supporters. This will leave Wigan fans worried following the substitution of Balogun early into the second half at West Brom on Saturday as Wigan appear to be short on numbers in the centre of defence.
Dunkley has scored on six occasions for the Latics this season and provides a real threat from set pieces for Paul Cook. Not only do the Latics benefit going forwards with Dunkley’s presence but also defensively, the defender can often be seen heading corners and free-kicks away in the Wigan penalty area.
Wigan certainly would have felt that Dunkley would be a key asset in their bid to remain in the Sky Bet Championship.