Wigan Athletic 1 - West Bromwich Albion 1
Typically, on the back of a run of six wins, Albion travelled to 23rd placed Wigan and were somewhat lucky to come away with a draw. With three games to play in six days, Slaven Bilic made four changes - dropping Grady Diangana, Matheus Pereira and Hal Robson-Kanu to the bench and bringing in Darnell Furlong for the injured Kieran Gibbs.
After a goalless first half in which Albion looked more like last season's team at times, overplaying at the back and allowing themselves to be pressured by their hosts, they looked better after the break but fell behind in slightly freakish fashion after five minutes to a long range strike from Sam Morsy that Sam Johnstone saved, only to see it drop down again and bounce into the net off his back.
But way more bizarre was Albion's equaliser. Latics keeper Jamie Jones appeared to be busy having a drink when Kal Naismith passed back to him and conceded an indirect free kick on the edge of the six yard box. A bit of a melee ensued as Wigan prevented Albion from taking it quickly, possibly just as well as it allowed Jake Livermore to tap it for Charlie Austin to drive home past the ten home players on the goal line.
Bilic immediately made a triple substitution, bringing on Pereira for Phillips and Robson-Kanu for Austin, but it failed to earn the three points they didn't really deserve anyway - and Albion remain in second place, level on points with Leeds but with one worse goal difference. Bizarrely, results elsewhere mean that the "automatic promotion" cushion to third place has grown by a point to eleven.
I think the positive we can take from that is we were pretty poor but still picked up an away point whilst giving some of our key players a rest.
I think you can make a fair argument that, unless you expect to win every game, the result just about vindicated Bilic’s decision to rest a number of players as well as deal with the enforced change of Gibbs.
First half we were disjointed as you’d expect - the partnerships weren’t there, Austin was trying to get involved but getting in the way and Krov/Sawyers kept swapping positions between the deep role and the number 10.
There were mistakes aplenty and I think we could’ve gone in 2 or 3 goals down - Wigan showing no belief or conviction with a couple of sitters and opportunities when they turned away from goal when clean through.
We started better after the break and it was a bit ironic that Wigan scored with a long ranger after we’d penned them in for 10 minutes.
Fortunately we got a gift when their keeper got caught not watching the match and picked up a back pass. The hard working but ineffective Austin made the finish look way easier than was, picking the only gap on the goal line of 11 men superbly.
Bilic has already made his mind up on subs and made all 3 straight after with HRK, Furlong and Pereira coming on.
We looked the team slightly more likely to win it - HRK holding it up better transformed Edwards from a passenger to a threat and Pereira giving us intelligent forward passes. That final pass just wouldn’t come off and as the game wound down the referee made some poor decisions and there was still time for Wigan to nearly nick it.
A point gained and we move on - hopefully we’ll be bit sharper in what’ll be another tough game against Blues on Saturday.
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