RAMBLE | Wigan 3-2 Wednesday

RAMBLE | Wigan 3-2 Wednesday

I woke up at 6am due to a combination of last night’s curry and Christmas Day excitement – football was back! I couldn’t wait to get to Wigan along with over 4500 other Wednesdayites and sing our hearts out for the boys. There’s been lots of rubbish and negativity online over the last few weeks and it was going to be great to just get back to football and watch Wednesday on the pitch. It was going to be a baking hot day which is always a bonus when watching football, the shorts were on! A few games on FIFA in the morning – the small matter of thrashing Wigan 4-0 with a Nuhiu hattrick – whilst I waited for my brother to get to my house and then we were off on the M62 to make the short trip to Wigan from my home in L**ds.

It’s back!

Discussion en route to Wigan was around Wednesday’s preseason (and inevitably the Radio/iPlayer debacle got a mention, the less said about that here the better) and out expectations for the day. We both agreed that we’d love to be talking about a win on the drive home but a draw seemed the most likely outcome. We were expecting to see a 5-3-2 formation of: Wildsmith; Reach, Pudil, Lees, van Aken, Palmer; Pelupessy, Bannan, Hutchinson; Forestieri and Nuhiu. After parking up in wonderful Wigan, we wandered down to grab ourselves a KFC, before making our way to the ground to meet up with our friends and grab a beer. Inside the ground the team news came out and the lineup was as we’d expected except Dawson was starting instead of Wildsmith, a surprise to us all but Dawson had played the final end of last season. Jos had commented in his Thursday press-conference that we’d find out who his #1 keeper was and club captain today – Dawson had got the nod for the start of the season and unsurprisingly Tom Lees was given the armband.

After finishing our beers, we headed up to our seats – the Wednesday end was starting to fill up nicely but clearly nobody had informed Wigan that they were kicking off the new season today as not many had turned up; a real shame when they were playing at home in a division higher after winning the league last season.


The teams come out to kickoff the new season.

The sun shone down on the away end as Wigan got the game started, immediately moving the ball forward before it comfortably fell to Dawson. We looked like we wanted to move the ball around at the back as Dawson kept playing the ball short to the defenders who were either really naive or had a lot more confidence in their own abilities under pressure than we did. It was a fairly interesting and positive start to the match and quite end to end. We made a good move down the wing with a clever turn from Adam Reach but the Wigan defender was able to make a timely interception before to stop the ball getting to Nuhiu’s feet. Good movement from Forestieri allowed him to take on a couple of players, move the ball out wide to Palmer and try to play a one-two but the ball was knocked behind for a corner. The delivery into the box wasn’t great but Reach was able to retrieve it and put the ball into a dangerous area before it was again knocked behind. As we’ve become accustomed to, Wigan were chopping at Forestieri whenever he had the ball but the ref was wise to it and gave the freekicks. It was a fairly promising start to the game, but then on 11 minutes we saw some typical Wednesday defending and flashbacks to last season – Palmer lost the ball on the edge of their area which allowed their leftback to carry the ball the length of the pitch and deliver it into the box, Joost met it with a pretty poor header which failed to clear the ball and it fell to Michael Jacobs who saw his deflected shot (after Joost tried to charge the ball down and block it) beat Dawson and put the Latics 1-0 up. There was silence amongst the Wednesdayites, not the start to the season anybody wants.

We continued to pass the ball around at the back which was making me nervous but we didn’t have to wait long to be cheered up, as on twenty minutes some clever play from Forestieri out wide put Reach into space and he delivered a brilliant ball to Atdhe who brought it down on his chest. He went for the finish and the chance looked to have gone as it was blocked by a Wigan defender but luckily it fell back to his feet and he was able to put the ball passed Walton to equalise for us. 1-1! Nuhiu starting the new season in the same form as last season, that goal was his 10th in 9 matches! We were showered in water (I hope that’s what it was) and the young lad near us got upset by the celebrations but we didn’t care, we were back in it!

Unfortunately, we then didn’t have to wait long to be behind again. Dawson’s kicking wasn’t up to scratch and he took a long goal-kick, aimed at nobody in particular, which allowed Wigan to collect the ball and move it forwards. The ball was put into the box from the left hand side, after both Reach and Pudil failed to block the cross, and all van Aken managed to do was jump to flick the ball on to the Wigan player at the back post, he mishit it but unfortunately for us it fell at the feet of Jacobs and he made the most of the opportunity to put the ball straight between Dawson’s legs. 2-1 to Wigan and all of our good football and hard work to get back into the game was thrown away by poor kicking from the keeper and atrocious defending.

Our defence was leaving a lot to be desired, with Pudil and van Aken both really struggling. The formation of 5-3-2 was clearly not working either and it looked like being a long day for us as Wigan kept putting the pressure on and looked likely to grab at least one more goal before half-time. Thankfully they didn’t make the most of their chances – missing a free-header from a corner and a long-range shot from Jacobs beating Dawson but thankfully hitting the bar and the player following in firing well over. We managed to cling on to only being a goal behind and we were thankful when the half-time whistle blew with the score still at 2-1 to Wigan. Jos had one hell of a team talk to deliver and clearly needed to make a change – whether that was taking JVA off, changing the formation, or both, something needed to happen.

Half-time Wigan 2-1 Wednesday.

The mood at half-time wasn’t great with people already making comparisons to the opening game at Deepdale last season. We were certainly looking brighter going forward than we did at Preston, but for me, this was more worrying as our defence was all over the place and Wigan looked likely to score whenever they went forwards, at least Preston didn’t really trouble us and only won via a penalty! I turned to my brother and said that if we didn’t concede four today then that’d be something.

Unfortunately, the second half started in much the same way as the first half had ended, with poor passing and goal-kicks going to the opposition or out for throw-ins. We really weren’t doing ourselves any favours and were just inviting pressure onto our defence. Our midfield was all over the place, with Bannan having a rare off game, Hutch seeming to be playing as the furthest forward midfielder or just not sure where he should be playing and Joey being as lightweight as ever. It worries me that we’re going to be relying on Pelupessy so much this season. Adam Reach wasn’t having a great game and was often in the wrong positions, failing to track back so much that Forestieri took it upon himself to get involved in the defensive duties on a number of occasions. I love Forestieri, he works his arse off and gives his all for the team. A ball played out to our left was eventually struck at Dawson by Massey after Reach was nowhere to be seen and Pudil failed to tackle or make a block, thankfully Dawson was able to deal with the shot well.

The score stayed at 2-1 up until the 60th minute, Bannan giving the ball away just inside the Wigan half which allowed them to charge forward in numbers, Tom Lees continually backing off of Jacobs and not putting a challenge in, Jacobs taking the chance to shoot from just outside the area as he looked for his hattrick… the ball went straight at Dawson who feebly patted it into the path of the on-running Powell who cleverly dinked the ball over Dawson and into the empty net. 3-1 to Wigan and it looked very much like game over, with the only likely scorers being Wigan and them extending their lead.

Joao made a positive impact

There had been a need for a change for a long time and eventually Jos relieved van Aken of further humiliation as he brought Joao on, Joao immediately brought positivity and energy into the team and this allowed Hutchinson to move further back into a more natural position, and one he is much better suited to. After a Wednesday freekick was poorly cleared, the ball fell to Hutch just inside the area and he struck a sweet shot on target but it was palmed back out by Walton, unfortunately it never managed to fall at an Owls players’ feet to give them a chance to shoot and then when it was controlled by Joao, the ref gave a freekick for some reason only known to him.

A touch of class

We didn’t have to wait long after the introduction of Joao for him to influence the game though – only 6 minutes after he came on we reduced the deficit. Bannan moved the ball out wide to Reach who fired a ball across to Joao at quite a pace and I thought our number 18 did brilliantly to control the ball on his chest and play a clever lofted ball to Forestieri. As soon as the ball fell to Forestieri it was class, he took one touch on his chest to bring the ball down before a neat finish into the bottom corner. Brilliant! We were somehow back in the game on 67 minutes with the score at 3-2 thanks to Forestieri.

The rest of the game included more of us hanging on as Wigan attacked, at one point them hitting the crossbar from a free-header before Reach managed to clear it. We saw the obligatory Hutchinson injury as we all waited with held breath to see if he would need to be stretchered off – much to my surprise he was able to carry on but we’ll see if he’s fit for the next game. We saw Palmer sky a shot into the top of the stand from the edge of the box, Nuhiu get booked twice and sent off (I’m still yet to see footage of what actually happened with either of his challenges as I didn’t see anything wrong on the day other than him challenge for the ball but I’m told it was deserved?), we saw the referee decide he’d had enough and sub himself off for the fourth official and then finally, we saw the ball fall kindly to Reach just inside the area, with him having more than one opportunity to shoot which he didn’t take, the ball instead finding its way to Fletcher who was stood offside and struck his shot straight at the keeper anyway. We had that last minute chance with ten men to steal a point and we couldn’t take it. The referee blew his whistle to end the game 3-2. 

Full-time score: Wigan 3-2 Wednesday.

We were all massively disappointed, losing the first game of the season at a newly promoted Wigan hadn’t been part of anybody’s dreams last night. We couldn’t say they didn’t deserve it though as our defending was calamitous at times and too many players had off games. Changes are definitely needed for the next match at home to Hull next Saturday. I’d put Wildsmith in for Dawson straight away, no questions asked, as Westwood doesn’t seem likely to feature again unless he’s still here when the transfer window closes. If Jos wants to stick with his 5-3-2 formation (I’d be moving away from it after that performance, particularly at home) then he needs to play Hutchinson at the back instead of van Aken who just had a nightmare. If Hutch is carrying a knock then I’d be tempted to put Thorniley back there instead. Up top I’d put Forestieri behind Joao and Fletcher (if he’s fit enough to start) now that Atdhe is suspended, we need to be more attacking at home and when Forestieri was playing behind Joao and Nuhiu at the end of last season it worked brilliantly, with them linking up really well.

I was frustrated after this result and it was just like being back to normal, football season back and Wednesday putting a downer on my weekend! I was pleased to hear Luhukay’s post-match comments though where he made no excuses (as we know certain other people would’ve done) and said that the defending was completely unacceptable and uncharacteristic of the players he knows. What he needs to do now is sort it out on the training ground and put it right next week. Anybody can have an off day and if that’s all that it was then we can forgive it. The inevitable social media meltdown after the game will be shown to be completely uncalled for when we go the next forty-five games unbeaten.

Up the Owls.

Owls Alive
E-MAIL: owlsalive@gmail.com
Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @THEsharpey


Photos from Wigan Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday.


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