Thursday 11 April 2013

QPR 1-1 Latics - Maloney gets Latics out of Jail

Shaun Maloney’s last gasp equaliser ensured the Latics left Loftus Road with a share of spoils after a disappointing performance which saw them struggle against ten man QPR.  

The Latics were unable to make their extra man advantage count following Bobby Zamora’s red card for his high challenge on Jordi Gomez that caught the Spaniard full on in the head.
Shaun Maloney
It seemed that Roberto Martinez men looked set to pay the ultimate price for their inability to break down their hosts, when Loic Remy sensationally smashed home past Joel Robles with only six minutes left.  

After enduring a frustrating afternoon the Latics looked set to bring an end to their recent unbeaten run when Maynor Figueroa’s free kick was charged down by Stephane Mbia, who then ran the length of the field to feed Remy, who side footed home from 25 yards.  

It was only then that there seemed to be any immediate urgency about the Latics play and they took full advantage of Mbia’s needless challenge on Maloney. The Scottish international picked himself up to lift the ball over the wall and into the back of the net to break QPR hearts, and surely putting an end to their own great escape.  

Despite the point the Latics are now in the bottom three and will return to league action with two games in hand on their direct rivals.  

The hosts headed into the game knowing they had to win to have any chance of pulling themselves out of danger and started the brightest striking the upright inside the opening ten minutes.  

The momentum of the game quickly changed once Zamora left referee Phil Dowd with no option but to show the red card after a brief discussion with his assistant.  

The Latics took control of the play from then and they finally began to threaten, but were unable to create any clear cut chances.  

Wigan continued to press without much joy and James McArthur spurned a golden opportunity when his free header was too easy for Julio Cesar. Shortly after came the QPR sucker punch and it looked as if the Latics recent unbeaten run would come to an end, but the goal kicked new life into the visitors and they punished their hosts at the death and surely in the process condemning them to relegation.  

Up next for Roberto Martinez’s men is their historic FA Cup semi final against Millwall on Saturday evening at Wembley, before they resume league action away to the current league champions Manchester City.

Sunday 7 April 2013

QPR v Wigan - Premier League Preview

The Latics head down to Loftus Road on Sunday afternoon in what is a crucial encounter that could see them cut their hosts adrift in the fight for survival. 

After securing crucial back to back home league wins the Latics now face three trips on the road in the league that will go a long way in deciding their fate.  

Roberto Martinez’s men will be confident of continuing their impressive recent run away from the DW, which has seen them defeated only once in nine, since their Boxing Day defeat at Everton.
Callum McMannaman
Sunday’s clash presents the perfect opportunity for the Latics to kill off the QPR revival. Harry Redknapp’s fell to their second defeat in a row on Monday evening against Fulham, where they paid the ultimate price for a catastrophic first half display.  

Saturday’s results have seen the Latics return to the drop zone but are only one point adrift of Sunderland 

Unlike previous seasons the Latics know that if they do their own job they will secure top flight football for a ninth consecutive season. Their recent form has seen a number of clubs above them being dragged into the dog fight and unlike many the Latics are seasoned relegation fighters.  

Places in the starting XI for next week’s cup semi final against Millwall are up for grabs and Martinez will be looking to use this as motivation on Sunday: “We know that playing at Wembley is a unique experience, but we see that as something to enjoy and look forward while understanding the real importance is the league.” 

“Both competitions go hand in hand, and success in one helps to bring success in the other. The competition for places is as strong as it’s ever been. That brings confidence and a real desire for every game you play.”

Ivorian international Arouna Kone has impressed hugely following his stint at the African Cup of Nations, and has netted four in last four games including the crucial late winners against Newcastle and Norwich
Arouna Kone
Kone looks to be the key man in the run in and will once again lead the line as Martinez looks set to stick with the same XI for the fourth consecutive game.  

The form of Antolin Alcaraz has been a huge bonus for Martinez, since his return from a long lay off the Paraguayan international has provided crucial security at the heart of the defence alongside Paul Scharner. The performances of on loan keeper Joel Robles has come as a breath of fresh air for the Latics as he has repaid the faith shown in by Martinez.

With Wembley on the horizon fans will be looking to enjoy their weekend in the spotlight, without worrying too much about matters in the league. Martinez has targeted ten points from his side’s final eight matches and three points at Loftus Road would once again ease the pressure on the Latics and turn up the heat on their rivals. 

Sunday 31 March 2013

Latics 1-0 Norwich - Kone to the Rescue

Arouna Kone was once again the hero after his late winner lifted the Latics out of the drop zone and increased the pressure on the teams just above them as they secured back to back league wins.
A dull affair was decided with only nine minutes left when Jordi Gomez played in Kone, who fired delightfully past stand in Canaries keeper Lee Camp.
Arouna Kone
The Ivorian followed up his last gasp winner versus Newcastle before the international break with his 10th league goal of the season and he looks set to break Henri Camara’s Latics top flight record of twelve goals.

The visitors started the brighter of the two sides, with the returning international Latics unable to settle into a rhythm, and they looked set to continue their wretched run of having not won following an international break.  

Paul Scharner was cautioned very early on when he brought down the tricky Robert Snodgrass, but the Canaries were unable to capitalize from the resulting set piece.  

The Latics gradually found their passing game as the opening half came to a close with Callum McMannaman miscuing and Kone unable to direct an effort on target.  

Antolin Alcaraz was excellent all afternoon, nullifying the Canaries attacking threat and he provided essential cover on a number of occasions for an erratic Scharner.  

The frustration for the home fans continued well into the second period as Martinez’s men were unable to create much despite sustained periods of possession. With only 20 minutes left to play the home side cranked up the pressure on their visitors, with first Alcaraz going close with a header and then James McCarthy going close from distance.  

Michael Turner sensationally blocked Gomez’s effort inside his own six yard box as Chris Hughton’s men looked as if they would secure their fourteenth draw of the season.  

Despite poor service all afternoon Kone was still alive to the play and was the grateful recipient of Gomez’s delightful through ball after a mix-up involving referee Howard Webb. Keeper Camp will perhaps feel he should have done better with the arrowed effort on his first full league start for the Canaries. 
Antolin Alcaraz
The visitors failed to test Joel Robles and didn't register an effort on target all afternoon, as the Latics finally picked up their first  home clean sheet of the season.

His goal was nothing more than Kone deserved, and as he made way in added on time for Franco Di Santo he soaked up the applause of the adoring DW.  

It was a difficult watch for many but the fact that his side were able to come out on top without being at the best in an attacking sense was a huge positive for Martinez who spoke after the game: “I don’t think we were stylish as we normally are, but what we showed is incredible character. Every player found a way to help keep Norwich very quiet.” 

The Spaniard went on to praise his lone front man: “It was that little but of quality at the other end that decided it. Just as it seemed it wouldn’t quite fall for us, the ball from Jordi Gomez was fantastic, a clinical ball, and the finish from Arouna Kone was just what he deserved for his work ethic.”

Kone was the focal point of everything that the Latics did well today and he is going to be the key man for Wigan, as they prepare for three consecutive trips to the capital, before they next take to the field at DW against Spurs at the end of April. 

The month kicks off with the league game at QPR before the historic Wembley FA Cup Semi Final with Millwall rounded off with the trip to West Ham.

Friday 29 March 2013

Latics v Norwich City - Premier League

LaticsInANutshell is back and returns previewing the visit of Norwich City, in what is a must win game for the Latics as they prepare for another fight to stay amongst the elite. 

Arouna Kone’s dramatic late winner against Newcastle before the international break, fired Roberto Martinez's men latest great escape act into action.
Arouna Kone
Martinez will be looking for his side to carry through the momentum that they have gathered over the last few weeks, and will be hopeful of naming the same XI for a third consecutive game. 

Callum McMannaman and Antolin Alcaraz are both being monitored ahead of the visit of the Canaries, who themselves could well be dragged into the relegation scrap with defeat on Saturday. On loan keeper Joel Robles looks to have won the battle for the number 1 spot for the time being, and Martinez will be looking to stick with a settled side during the run in. 

Despite having never beaten their visitors in the league the Latics will be confident of securing the victory that would see them move out of drop zone until Sunday at least.  

It is a crucial phase of the season for the Latics, with a clash with fellow relegation strugglers QPR next in the league followed by the FA Cup semi-final with Millwall. Martinez’s men will be seeking a first clean sheet on home soil this season, and will be looking to improve on a record of 13 points from the DW (the joint worst in the league with QPR).   
Antolin Alcaraz
But it will be tough against a Norwich side who still need the points to guarantee another season in the top flight who are currently in 12th  in the table, and were impressive in their draw away to Sunderland despite playing with ten men for long periods. 

Since his return from the African Cup of Nations striker Kone has been in sensational form and the Latics will be once again looking to him to lead the line.  

Over recent weeks there has been a confidence about the Latics that has seen an upturn in fortunes and I believe they will have enough to overcome Norwich and really drag the Canaries and others around them into the dogfight which will take centre stage at the business end of the season. 

Sunday 2 December 2012

Newcastle v Latics Premier League Preview

The Latics head north on Monday evening, to take on an out of sorts Newcastle United as they kick off the crucial busy festive period. 

Roberto Martinez will be grateful of the extra 48 hours break given to both sides as a result of the game being switched for Sky’s Monday Night Football coverage, as he looks for more luck on the injury front.

Gary Caldwell

Having headed into the midweek clash against the Champions without all three first choice centre half’s, the Spaniard could well be forced to stick with same defensive line. Captain Gary Caldwell and midfielder David Jones are both rated as 50-50. Meanwhile Antolin Alcaraz, Albert Crusat, Ivan Ramis and Ben Watson are all ruled out with various ongoing injuries.

Both sides head into the clash separated by only goal difference, as Newcastle boss Alan Pardew looks to avoid a third straight home defeat and bring an end to five game winless run.

Injuries and European football have exposed the lack of depth in the Geordie team, as they focussed much of the summer in hanging onto prized assets rather than add to an already small squad. Pardew will not be able to call upon the services of the influential midfield pairing of Yohan Cabaye and Haten Ben Arfa, who both look set for lengthy spells on the sidelines. Elsewhere centre half Steven Taylor was also added to a growing injury list this week and utility man James Perch is suspended.

On what is expected to be a bitterly cold night the Latics will look to heap more pressure on the home side and keep the crowd quiet. They will gain confidence from their last outing against City where they were arguably the better side for large parts and created a number of openings.

Arouna Kone and Franco Di Santo led the line impressively and Jordi Gomez was unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty before half time. Despite the absence of his first choice centre half's Martinez will have been encouraged by the performance of Adrian Lopez who lead the line and held his own against the Champions. 

Adrian Lopez
Elsewhere the Latics have secured a home tie in the Third Round of the FA Cup against League One outfit AFC Bournemouth and will be keen to make up for the Carling Cup disappointment with a run in the Cup. 

Before the the cup kicks in, they head into a busy and potentially season defining festive period, with games against QPR, Norwich, Arsenal, Everton and Aston Villa to come before they face Manchester United on New Year’s day.

Much will depend on Monday evening if Martinez’s men are in the mood to impress, the Spaniard warned ahead of the game that this is potentially a bad time to take on Newcastle, but will want to take advantage of the situation and move clear of Newcastle and the teams below them.

For the fans heading up north they will take heart from their last two Monday night outings where they secured memorable victories against Arsenal and Blackburn securing their top flight status in the process.