A 14,304-strong crowd attended Wigan Athletic’s game-in-hand against Doncaster Rovers last night and saw them draw 2-2 with Paul Dickov’s men. If Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of AFC Bournemouth wasn’t enough to worry Owen Coyle of the dangers of the Championship then this game certainly did the trick. Coyle’s Wigan were 2-0 down at half-time and had to give it everything that they’ve got to gain a draw in a game that they probably should have lost.
Although Wigan looked dangerous on the attack in the early stages and should have had a penalty after 15 minutes as Grant Holt was bundled to the ground by Doncaster right-back Reece Wabara, it was Doncaster that took the lead after just 25 minutes. It was a goal that highlighted Wigan’s lack of understanding at the back as a free-kick taken by Ross Turnbull (Doncaster ‘keeper) from five yards outside of his box was won too easily in the air by Chris Brown. Brown headed the ball down to Theo Robinson who scored at the near post with a powerful shot that Scott Carson seemingly did not expect.
Doncaster’s two strikers caused Wigan problems all night and Owen Coyle would be taking a risk if he didn’t decide to buy a taller, stronger centre back before transfer deadline day. Both James Perch and Leon Barnett are not strong enough to compete with the typical big, strong championship strikers.
Wigan perked up slightly after Doncaster’s first goal and Emmerson Boyce tried his best to rally his troops. Shaun Maloney and Boyce worked well down the right side of the pitch and looked increasingly dangerous when going forward and were looking smart when defending. The same cannot be said for the left side. Stephen Crainey and James McClean were not on the same page in the first half and it was clear to see that Boyce and Maloney have an understanding of each other whereas Crainey and McClean do not. This understanding will come in time but Coyle will hope it comes sooner rather than later.
However, Doncaster simply soaked up the Wigan pressure and then scored a second goal. Again, from a Wigan point of view, this was a soft goal to concede as Bongani Khumalo’s cross was met by the head of Chris Brown. Brown had a free header inside the 6-yard box and neither Perch nor Carson could stop the ball from hitting the back of the net.
Marc-Antoine Fortune was brought on at half-time for Ben Watson (who had been non-existent for 45 minutes) in an attempt to make a comeback. This substitution made a difference almost immediately as Fortune and Holt linked up well and each created space and opportunities for the other. And in the 57th minute Fortune won a free-kick as he was fouled on the edge of the 18-yard box. There was only one man who could possibly take a free-kick from such a range and that man was Shaun Maloney. He hit the ball beautifully and it sailed into the top left hand corner of Turnbull’s net.
Wigan continued to attack and put pressure on Doncaster and they were rewarded in the last minute of the game as a short corner made its way to Fortune who smacked the ball along the floor and into the feet of Barnett who slotted home from 5 yards. Barnett then showed his passion by ripping his shirt off!
The man of the match was Emmerson Boyce as he worked as hard as he could for the full 90 minutes. He was attacking when Wigan needed to attack (he looked dangerous as well) and he defended when Wigan needed to defend. He certainly played the role of captain as he kept his players going even when they were 2-0 down.
There are still various concerns for Wigan, however. Crosses continue to be floated to the back post which means that no-one can get any power on a header. Defensively Wigan look terrible and do not look able to keep out the likes of Watford or Nottingham Forest. McCarthy isn’t doing anything to contribute to the midfield and looks a shadow of his former self.
Overall, Wigan can be happy that, even though they played so badly throughout the game, they looked dangerous on the attack and still manage to squeeze a draw out of the game.