Thirteen games to save our Championship status, first up a home game against Nottingham Forest who are on a shocking run of form, conceded 10 goals in their last three matches, three of their first choice defenders missing through injury, they had lost 11 of their 16 away games this season with a -16 goal difference on the road and sat just six points above us in the table, surely a game that we would set out to win.
Checking the team selection I felt slightly optimistic but slightly confused, it appeared, well to my mind, that we had opted for a back three – Warnock, Buxton and Burn – and intended to play wing backs to give us width to get at Forest, what I couldn’t quite work out and what was confusing me was who were the wingbacks, but I was still pleased that we were going to have a go.
I needn’t have troubled my mind, it is after all Warren Joyce and his ultra cautious tactics who, at this moment in time, is setting up the Latics with a back four and a defensive midfield four, with no width and two strikers playing the channels, come on, I’d time warped back to 1990’s and was witnessing football as prescribed in the ‘John Beck Hoofball’ manual, what an absolute disgrace.
Bar a two minute spell at the start of the game, we were quite simply shocking and devoid of ideas, this playing against possibly the worse side to be seen at the DW this season. The players worked their socks off and ran themselves into the ground, the really sad part of all this is that the crowd are looking for scapegoats on the pitch when it is undoubtedly the management that is at fault.
Mikael Mandron made his full debut, he looks a big strong lad, Omar Bogle was once again full of running, but our tactic was to pump the ball into the corners for those two to chase, then because of the way we were set up there was no support. The full backs didn’t get forward, the midfield was holding ground, no one was willing, or more likely allowed to take a gamble and get beyond the strikers, utterly shocking.
Second half kick-off we actually lined up like a rugby team with 9 outfield players on the left half of the pitch, it just looked so unprofessional. The free kicks that we gained lacked any creativeness, every one being a carbon copy of the rest, a diagonal ball to the back of the ruck to be headed back across, if things weren’t so serious this would be laughable.
Forest had most of the play second half and could have scored a couple of goals, they deployed Mustapha Carayol onto the touchline as an out and out winger and he was in oceans of space. Matt Gilks made an excellent save from one Forest effort and Stephen Warnock got his head in front of another, they also had a curling shot and a far post header that flew inches wide, at the other end, well Joyce speaks in his after game interview about us having the best of the chances, the highlights show two crosses as our chances, one blocked at the near post the other went over the head of Alex Gilbey, brilliant!
With 12 games left and just two points off safety you may argue that I have too much of a defeatist attitude and that we need to believe, I’d counter with an ‘open your eyes and take a look at what is happening’, we have regressed so far back this season as we are unrecognisable from the team crowned Champions 9 months ago, Caldwell? Maybe he had a part to play in this, but Joyce has picked up the baton and set off like Usain Bolt, bar the games away at Burton and at home against Brentford we have been dire, negative, insipid football that is draining the players and fans alike, Joyce came in to secure our status and develop players for the future, he is failing on both counts at the moment, dramatically, going down with a whimper with the white flag flying and he is turning good players into shockers.
Maybe the fact that he has spent the previous eight years working in a league with no relegation has had a bearing on this, maybe he lives in a different time, maybe he just isn’t the right man for us, whatever it is we have lost our footballing identity and we are going down.
On a side note I thought the referee, Geoff Eltringham, had a decent game yesterday, praise where it’s due.
Latics – Gilks, Buxton, Burn, Warnock, MacDonald, Power (Gilbey 58), Morsy, Hanson, Tunnicliffe, Mandron(Obertan 58) , Bogle (Grigg 85).
Subs – Roberts, Perkins, Connolly, Weir
Nottingham Forest – Smith, Lichaj, Worrall, Fox, Pinillos, Carayol, Vaughan, Clough (Ward 57), Osborn, Brereton (McCormack 82), Assombalonga
Subs – Evtimov, Cohen, Tshibola, Cash, Ahmedhodzic