It’s now several days since this dispiriting defeat and the uneasiness still lingers. The vast majority of our team were well below par & we were easily beaten by a side that had hardly been setting the division alight.
I shouldn’t have been like that. Unbeaten in 12, six clean sheets in a row, key players rested in midweek and top of the league without really hitting our stride. We should have done a hell of a lot better. And the fact that we’re still top of the league means absolutely sod all, as far as I’m concerned. We’re just lucky a couple of teams aren’t dominating like Leicester & Burnley did last season. As it stands, we’re just treading water with the mediocrity.
Yes, Wigan had come with a plan. Spicy Kev said before the game that Wigan boss, Uwe Rosler, had mentioned in an interview that he’d seen our draw against Millwall & had pronounced that he knew how to beat us. It couldn’t be that easy could it? Apparently, it is. God help us if other teams in this division start studying the video of this game.
Wigan were up for this from the start. They hassled us, pressed us, physically dominated us & rather worryingly, outplayed us. They had some quality players too – Callum McManaman, Roger Espinoza, Maynor Figueroa, Marc-Antoine Fortune and, of course, James McClean.. They were too good for us.
We may have been a match for these players on a good day but that was the problem, all of our players were having a bad day. Apart from Johnny Russell, who looked mobile & ran his heart out, everyone was below par in some way. Even Butland, who saved well from McManaman early on &, of course, saved Tavernier’s penalty, was at fault for the second goal & his kicking & general distribution was, frankly, awful. Eustace had a reasonable first half, miles better that the minimal contributions from Bryson & Hughes. And scored a great goal. Well, not quite but it felt like a worldie at the time. We went in at half time with a thoroughly undeserved one nil lead.
McClaren wasn’t fooled by the scoreline, he knew we were in trouble. That’s why the stutteringly ineffectual Ibe & the frankly anonymous Hughes were taken off (but it could have been anyone really), replaced by Dawkins & Hendrick. Dancer had a good 15 minute spell but Hendrick didn’t make much of a difference. Best coming on later on didn’t help either but no one was surprised by that. How long before we bite to bullet & cut his loan short?
Then McClean came on. The rest is history.
So. A performance that was a reality check for this team, if ever there was one. Yes, we’re still top but that’s not going to last long if we play like this again. Too his credit, McClaren was brutally honest about how bad we were, which gives you hope that this is a blip that we can overcome, just like we did when we lost to Leicester at the King Prawn & to Millwall at the iPro last season. We need to identify why we played so badly when we should have been brimming with confidence. And we need to find a way of playing that isn’t so predictable & easy to plan against. Most importantly, we need a reaction from these players.
A victory at Craven Cottage on Tuesday would be a start.