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Fulham vs. Wigan Preview: Three Questions with The Pie at Night

We sit down with The Pie at Night to preview Wigan’s trip to Craven Cottage.

Wigan Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Cottagers Confidential: You're in the relegation zone. How much hope do you have that you can get out before the end of the season?

The Pie at Night: I like to think we can, although the pessimist in me has subconsciously resigned us to next season in League 1. That way, if we do stay up it will be a pleasant surprise. You’ve got to harbour a bit of hope, but not too much it kills you.

At the minute, we’re 5 points off safety but with a game in hand. I’d rather have the 3 points but I think the way the fixtures are, that game in hand will effectively be away at QPR in a few weeks’ time. If we can go there and win, that could be the night we climb out of the bottom 3 again.

To coin a popular footballing phrase though: “there’s still a long way to go yet.”

I suppose it doesn’t matter when, as long as we’re not still 22nd or below at 5pm on 7th May.

I think it’s safe to say it’ll be Rotherham and any two from us, Blackburn, Burton and Bristol City. QPR and Wolves I think will be ok (unfortunately).

CC: It's hard to look for bright spots in a bad season, but have you had any bright spots or players that impressed this year?

TPAN: Results aside it’s not necessarily been a “bad season”. We’ve generally played well, without getting results. There have quite been a few times when we’ve controlled a game and got done by a goal against the run of play.

Defensively, we’re the 9th best team in the division in terms of goals conceded (conceded just 2 more goals than yourselves, Fulham) - and the other 8 teams are all in the top ten position in the league. Of the 15 games we’ve lost 13 have been by just 1 goal, which leads me on to the real problem.

We are also the lowest scoring team in the league. Rotherham who are rock bottom and 10 points adrift of us have scored more than us, although 3 of their goals were against us in a ridiculous first half performance by us on Boxing Day.

Why we’re not scoring, I don’t know, we’re certainly creating chances. Hopefully with the capture of Omar Bogle from Grimsby Town on deadline day will change that. His two goals against Norwich on Tuesday night have got us hoping.

With regards to bright spots, the 2-1 win away at Huddersfield back in November - wasn’t the nice passing football Wigan fans had become used to in recent years but we’re in a position where results have to come before style of play - was a perfect example of classic counter attacking play.

Callum Connolly (right back on loan from Everton)’s two goals on his debut at Burton Albion were fantastic, a much needed win against a team that we’re fighting it out with to stay up, and a player who we didn’t even announce had signed until we named the starting XI on the day.

We then followed it up with a good win at home to an in-form Brentford, which gave many of us a bit of hope we were starting to turn things around.

Will Grigg had a decent goal return when playing regularly earlier in the season, so for him to be scoring at this level after a few teams promoted out of League 1 seemed to think he wasn’t good enough is nice.

I also can’t miss the opportunity to mention Sam Morsy who has been very good since he came back from a loan spell at Barnsley. He’s provided a much missing energy boost in midfield, which seems to have rubbed off on a few other players around him, notably young Max Power.

CC: What has been the most surprising thing about your season so far?

TPAN: It seems a lifetime ago now but the sacking of Gary Caldwell when it happened was a shock to a fair number of Latics fans. We were playing well albeit not getting the results we deserved and he was a man who had been at the club a long time, and had the club at heart. If winning the league last season only buys you two months into next season, then it’s a sad state of affairs.

The fact that we then didn’t seem to know who we wanted to replace him was strange, I’m always amazed when a club sacks a manager without a replacement lined up.

Warren Joyce eventually came in from managing the Man Utd U23s and we’ve done ok, and now the January window has given him a chance to mix his squad up a little. The sale of Wildschut has allowed him to bring in a number of players, mostly young prospects for the future.

If you’d have asked me in August if we’d be selling Yanic in January, I’d have laughed at you but on the whole I think it was a good move for all three parties. We got £7m for him, he got the pay rise he wanted and Norwich got a player who bar his headline grabbing performance live on Sky at Huddersfield, has been patchy this season.

Omar Bogle arrived for 1/10th of the Yanic money and has already made many Wiganers’ (who were bitter with Wildschut’s comments upon leaving) forget about him completely. We have a new hero.

CC: Predicted lineup and result?

TPAN: We haven’t beaten you since 2005, and the results between us since then are littered with draws. I think most Fulham and Wigan Athletic fans would admit generally games between us are far from thrilling, especially in the Premier League days. Fulham’s form all season has been up and down too, and seemingly you are better away than at home. I’d like to think we can win but would settle for a draw if offered it now. Can’t see us keeping a clean sheet so I’m going to sit on the fence and say 1-1.

Line up wise, Joyce doesn’t seem to make too many changes, so I think it will be the same team as started on Tuesday vs Norwich, 4-5-1:

GK Haugaard
RB Connolly
CB Buxton
CB Burn
LB Warnock
MF Power
MF MacDonald
MF Weir
MF Morsy
MF Jacobs
ST Bogle