Wigan Athletic on brink of relegation after 0-0 draw with Cardiff City
Wigan came into this fixture on the brink of relegation. They would return to League One if they lost and 21st placed Nottingham Forest beat promotion chasing Reading. The Latics were on good form however, winning two of their past three fixtures in their effort to remain in the Championship. There was cause for concern – in the six matches since interim manager Graham Barrow has taken charge, they have conceded at least two goals in each of them.
They faced a Cardiff team struggling with their away form, failing to win in their previous five away fixtures. Blues fans could remain confident despite this, as their team were already assured of survival.
Wigan began the game positively, pressuring the away goal early on through Michael Jacobs and Reece Burke. There were calls for a penalty for the home side as Shaun McDonald fell in the box, but the referee was not swayed by the passionate home supporters. The Latics were not disheartened and continued their pressure, forcing saves from goalkeeper Ben Amos.
Reece Burke and Craig Morgan had further chances for Wigan, although neither was successful in troubling the Bluebirds. Considering the home side’s predicament, it was vital that a chance was taken soon before Cardiff were able to trouble them. Indeed, Cardiff went close to scoring through Craig Noone, who hit the bar with a left footed shot from the left side of the box.
After halftime Cardiff went close through Craig Noone again, this time with a freekick. Wigan responded by making a double substitution, taking off Gabriel Obertan and Jamie Hanson and replacing them with Nick Powell and Ryan Colclough. Powell has scored in each of his last three appearances for Wigan, netting five goals – all as a substitute. Cardiff made their own change at the same time, removing Mark Harris and throwing on Rickie Lambert in an effort to provide more of an attacking threat.
Powell almost made an immediate impact with a good chance inside the box, however Lambert was on hand to deny him with a vital block. Ecuele Manga went close for Cardiff at the other end, but was unable to squeeze the ball into the net from an awkward angle at the back post.
Desperation began to grow for the home side, and they made their final substitution, bring on Alex Bruce in place of David Perkins. Cardiff responded with their own change, replacing Craig Noone with Ibrahim Meite.
As full time approached, Wigan were in the ascendancy, driven by their need to survive in the league. They pressured the away goal hard – Michael Jacobs had a shot from the right side of the box blocked well by the organised Cardiff defence. Ryan Colclough came closest to troubling Ben Amos for a precious Wigan goal, but it was well saved.
The draw means that Wigan are now six points behind Birmingham City. Nottingham Forest beat Reading 3-2, thus ensuring Wigan cannot catch them. The Latics have two matches remaining and Birmingham have three until the end of the season, but Wigan have a superior goal difference. In order for Athletic to survive, they must win their remaining matches and hope that Birmingham lose all of theirs. Birmingham’s next fixture is on the 23rd April against Aston Villa, so if they win or draw then Wigan will be relegated. Wigan’s next match is away to Reading on the 29th April.
Cardiff’s next game is on Friday 28th April at home to promotion hopefuls Newcastle United. They are already safe, so the fixture will not have much importance for them except to improve on their current league standing of 12th.
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