Wigan Athletic (h) – 01/03/16

Wigan Athletic BadgeMillwall kept up their unbeaten run on the road last Saturday, as ex-Lion Richard Chaplow cancelled out Steve Morison’s 13th of the season in a 1-1 draw with Doncaster Rovers. This Tuesday, the first of two consecutive home games sees promotion-chasing Wigan Athletic come to town. Dan Farrimond takes up ‘The View From The Opposition’…

Name: Dan Farrimond

Twitter: @jesusisawiganer

First Wigan game: It was a Division 2 game. I honestly can’t remember who we played, but it would have been after Wigan moved to the DW Stadium in 1999. My Dad would never allow me to go to Springfield Park, possibly because he was afraid a floodlight would collapse on me, or I would become lost in the long grass behind the goals, or trampled by racing greyhounds.

I do remember we won, though. The attendance must have been around 3-4,000 – we got to choose a perfectly central seat with a wonderful view of the whole playing surface. It was like watching the game on television! And that was it, I was hooked. I guess it could just as easily have been competitive boot-throwing, but I enjoy the thrill of a goal.

Greatest moment following Wigan: Sadly, I can’t pick our 2013 FA Cup victory, because I couldn’t make it. I had the tickets and coach booked ready, but come the week of the final, I became bed-ridden with the worst virus I’d had in years. I *was* at the semi final, but I really don’t want to pick that because it would be plain rude of me.

So here’s a good one.

The most exciting Latics match I’ve ever witnessed was Wigan vs West Ham in 2011. It was the penultimate game of the season and whoever lost was pretty much guaranteed to be relegated – the winner would ‘stay on’ to the final round of games. At half time, Wigan were 2-0 down. It was over – we were already back in the Championship.

But, thanks to a couple of inspired half time substitutions, the scores were level at 2-2 going into the final half hour – cue the craziest spell of football I and 22,000 others had ever witnessed. It was straight from the school playground – as soon as one man picked up the ball, he and 9 of his team mates would bomb forward and descend upon the opposition goalmouth with immediate effect.

The biggest surprise is that it was only settled in the 94th minute. Latics were relegated until about 30 seconds before the end of the game, when Charles N’Zogbia rolled one underneath the hapless (hopeless?) Rob Green. I still have a vivid memory of the goal and thinking the goalkeeper had saved it with his legs – until I heard an almighty roar.

So I would choose that moment, as opposed to Ben Watson’s cup final header. And hopefully you don’t hate me for bringing up repressed memories of 2013!

The Latics sit in second place following Saturday’s 3-0 win over Bury – is the aim automatic promotion, or would you settle for a place in the play-offs? Was an instant return to the Championship the aim in August, following relegation?: In July, I would have settled for mid-table and the playoffs would have been a great bonus. The previous season was akin to a full set of rotten teeth that you couldn’t wait to have pulled. On top of that, we had a 99% new first team squad and a rookie manager whose only previous coaching experience was (presumably) teletext fantasy football.

Yeah, we had the Premier League parachute payments. But we had even more of those last year and look where they got us (nowhere). Hence, expectations were reset to below  realistic levels; I think that helped Caldwell along. Oh yeah, the club *wanted* promotion at the first attempt – who wouldn’t?

Seeing how good a job Caldwell is doing, however, I think there’s now an expectation of automatic promotion. Personally, I’d prefer to avoid the drama of the playoffs – we had enough of that in 2014-15 to last us a football club’s lifetime. Any other season, I’d welcome it wholeheartedly!

Millwall aren’t far behind Wigan in 5th place – how do you view their chances of returning to the Championship at the first attempt?: I think you can do it, you know. Everyone else in the top 6 apart from Wigan and Millwall seems to be losing points at a crucial time; and I’ve long predicted Burton’s engine conking out.

Hit form at the right time and the play-offs are yours for the taking. And I wouldn’t totally rule out top two, either – this could get very scrappy in the last dozen games.

Who are Wigan’s ‘ones to watch’ on Tuesday night?: Yanic Wildschut started on Saturday, setting up the first goal. When he gets the ball and starts running with it, be sure to stop him at all costs – let the pitch grow long, add sand, anything to slow him down. Then, make him run back to defend – it’s his greatest weakness.

Our keeper, Jussi Jaasekelainen has had three successive good games, but beyond the 2-3 saves a game he has been making, I suppose he is unproven.

Are there any Millwall players you will be wary of?: For some reason, the name Fred Onyedinma has stuck in my mind since he scored at the DW in September.

Much like us, you seem to have a good spread of goalscorers. But I think I am a closet fan of Steve Morison, and not just because he sounds like a high street supermarket. All the more reason to plump for him, I guess. But yeah, he scores goals – always an admirable quality in an attacker!

Finally, how do you see the game going?: I would like to say this will be an exciting 4-4 draw, but in reality, I reckon it’s going to be a physical battle with elbows in faces and knees in groins – the way it should always be!

I think there’ll be a winner one way or another. As much as I would love a point, I think that’s less likely than a Latics or Millwall win.

Score Prediction: Millwall 1-2 Wigan Athletic.

Dan’s Team Prediction: Jääskeläinen; McCann, Pearce, Morgan, Wabara; Perkins, Power, Morsy; Wildschut, Grigg, Colclough/McAleny.

Millwall take on Wigan Athletic at The Den this Tuesday, March 1st. Kick-off is at 7:45pm.