The Watford/Nottingham Forest clash went the way I thought it might, which meant the major beneficiaries on Tuesday night were Derby -who took over at the top after a single goal win courtesy of a late Chris Martin penalty at Blackpool – and Wolves, who shut out Middlesbrough at Molineux.
Despite losing at Charlton, Bolton moved off the bottom of the table but are unlikely to move out of the bottom three this weekend unless they beat Brentford by four clear goals (something they’ve never done) and hope other results go their way. Fulham came from behind three times at Rotherham to put even more pressure on managerless Birmingham City, who lost at Blackburn and had Neal Eardley sent off.
Without further ado, let’s move on to the game of the day at the iPro Stadium, where Wigan are the visitors.
I’m not going to beat around the bush, I thought Derby were unlucky not to win promotion last season. Steve McClaren has kept faith with most of the players who lost at Wembley in May but has made some interesting moves. Stoke ‘keeper and England international Jack Butland, Sheffield Wednesday striker Leon Best and Liverpool midfielder Jordon Ibe have all joined the Rams on loan, all of whom are valuable upgrades.
Although Derby haven’t lost at home since March, the season got off to a slowish start and it’s appropriate to point out that County have only won half of their six homes since start of the season. Having written that, the current leaders have only dropped two points from 21 available in seven games against bottom half teams this season and should continue that trend against Wigan; the club record for consecutive clean sheets was broken at Blackpool during the week and that’s always a good indicator of decent team.
Wigan’s last home and away wins were both against Birmingham, which probably only indicates that the Latics are better than the Blues rather than anything else; last season’s playoff semi finalists appear to be suffering from the customary hangover this season and have only beaten teams that are currently below them this season. As usual, there’s an alternative hypothesis: Wigan were 14th at the end of December 2013, only cracked the top ten for good in mid February and they may just be slow starters, but there’s also been quite a big turnover in playing staff. Only three of the team that lost at Loftus Road in extra time in May started against Millwall this week and with Jordi Gomez and Nick Powell plying their trades elsewhere, last season’s need for a proven goalscorer has become a little more desperate.
The head to head stats are very interesting. The Rams have only won one of their half dozen games against Wigan at home in the league since the mid 1980s with the sole win coming in December 1985! Wigan only won one of their eight games against the teams that eventually finished above them last season…see if you can guess who they beat.
Have a good weekend 🙂