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Match Previews

Focus On: Wigan Athletic

23 April 2018

By Gerry Prewett.

Earlier in the campaign Rovers were somewhat steamrollered by the Latics when they went down 3-0 at the DW Stadium. After losing Ryan Sweeny to a red card on 30 minutes they immediately conceded a goal form the free-kick to Nick Powell. Then just after half-time Will Grigg showed just why he is on form when he netted the second for the home team. Ellis Harrison then conspired to see his spot kick saved with just 10 minutes left on the clock before Gavin Massey gave the score-line a very convincing look with his team's third.

On Saturday the Latics clinched automatic promotion with a 4-0 thrashing of nearby Fleetwood. The first half it was not the stroll in the park the scoreline reflects as Fleetwood put up a fight with boss John Sheridan left to rue what could have been had one of Ash Hunter's chances gone in.

Wigan got their opening goal in the 32nd minute as Max Power fired home and then saw Fleetwood crumble with Gavin Massey turning in the box before sliding the ball past Alex Cairns in the 36th minute to double the score.

In the second half, Dan Burn calmly fired home in the 57th minute, while fellow centre-half Chey Dunkley added the gloss as he converted from close range in the 66th minute.

Athletic Boss Paul Cook reflected after seeing his side secure promotion with three games to spare, "Blackburn got a little bit ahead of themselves when we had games in hand with some things said about us becoming fatigued, but we haven't. We're the first team to be promoted and we got to the quarterfinal of the FA Cup. I wish Blackburn and Shrewsbury, with a special mention to them, well."

"We're very grounded as a staff. It's a long journey in football and it is a great day. The record speaks for itself; clean sheets, goals, wins and the best teams in the league finish at the top. I'm so proud of the players. We might be a good fit now but football changes, my time at Portsmouth showed that when we were happy, and then it all changed."

"I'm going to enjoy tonight and it's great when you've managed or played for a club and you lead them to promotion, you'll always have a place in their heart."

It is over seventeen years since the teams last crossed paths in Bristol or Bath with Wigan enjoying the Premiership experience whilst Rovers struggled. Ironically in the 2000-01 season, the last time this fixture took place, both games finished 0-0. Overall home team seems to come out well. Rovers first ever meetings with Wigan were results to be savoured. On 16 October 1982 goals by Graham Withey (2), Paul Randall and Geraint Williams secured an impressive 4-0 victory. Larry Lloyd had an unhappy return to Eastville being one of two Latics players sent off, Alex Cribley being the other.

Rovers continued to dominate in these fixtures and have recorded 6-1 (1990) and 5-0 (1998) victories. The Latics only victory was a 3-2 win at Twerton Park on 5 September 1987. The last game between the clubs in Bristol was a 0-0 draw played on 16 September 2000.

Looking at the League table at the moment the Latics hold a three point advantage over Blackburn, with a better goal difference, going in to the final three games of the season.
They will be looking to achieve the league title they won in 2015/16 and can finish on 102 points should they win their remaining matches.

Speaking ahead of tonight's game Cook said, "We're now going into a three-game spell in which we can clinch the league title if everything goes our way and it's something myself and the players would really like to do for the supporters."

"I've said it all season, what you get is what you deserve and we've never changed our attitude from that. We have an opportunity now, with the away record being as strong as it is, to strengthen all of our statistics. Can we get to that magical 100 points which is an unbelievable target for any team?"

"It's always good to have a target, albeit we can speak more openly about it because we've been promoted and that sense of relief is there for everyone."

Talking about Rovers he said, "Bristol Rovers is always a tough place to go to and Darrell is a bright young manager who has had an outstanding time with his club so far. Darrell always puts an attacking team out because he's a very positive manager. He likes to have his two lads up front and Bristol Rovers always get after teams."

"We're under no illusions how tough it will be on the night, but if we can get the win then it gives us a great chance to win the league at home on Saturday. If we don't win then we get on with it, you know me, that's how I always approach things, but what a good day it would be at the DW Stadium on Saturday if we do win on Tuesday night.

"It would be such a good day to get a big crowd in on Saturday and celebrate in front of our own fans with everyone and their families. It would be great, but if not, we carry on."

"There will be one or two changes from Saturday. We can't keep going with the same team Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday as this time of year."

"Michael Jacobs was rested on Saturday with the intention of bringing him on at 60 minutes. It was good because we spoke to Michael and said we're OK in the game so you can have a full rest. Michael Jacobs comes back into the team against Bristol Rovers, that's the luxury that we have in our squad.

"On Saturday Gavin Massey, Gary Roberts and Max Power were excellent. Gary especially was superb.

"The reception David (Perkins) got when he came on was unbelievable and he got stuck in straight away. Perks is a massive member of this squad, he's a really popular guy in the dressing room and right through the club and supporters, and I'm sure we can get him onto the pitch in the last three games. Whether we can get him to that 100 appearances milestone is yet to be seen.

"Jamie Walker came on and looked lively and that shows how many options we have because we're a good club and have a good squad."


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