The fourth round of the FA Cup, last season Robert Martinez’s men lost to banana skin Swindon Town in the third round, and all hopes of a Wembley dream were lost. This season Latics managed to beat creep their way past Bournemouth, and now look forward to a tie which calls back days of long forgotten non-league football.
The game against Macclesfield is a big game. In the days of old, when the club was battling in the non-league of the area, such a game was a derby a chance for two of the biggest non-league teams in the area to lock horns and battle for supremacy.
Until last season, they could call themselves a football league team, yet they slip back through the trap door and into the conference where they now sit 9th and under manager Steve King are starting the long hard road back to the football league after a poor end to the previous season.
For both sides the game is highly anticipated. Wigan sold out their initial allocation in three days of general sale, before an extra 300 tickets were snapped up in three hours, the trip down the M6 obviously going to be highly populated by the Wigan faithful. The same can be said for Macclesfield as their home allocation is also full.
So an old football stadium, a full crowd of supporters, doesn’t it take you back. Many a time over our plotted history Wigan had been the none-league side playing the Premier League giants and look to try and get their scalp; can we pass through to the next round?
It of course will be a weakened side that will face the non-leaguers. Martinez will drop the young lads in as part of their continual development. So the like of Frazer Fyvie, Callum McManaman, Roman Golobart and Daniel Redmond will get their chance yet again to shine for Latics. Someone else who is likely to feature for Wigan is our new Spanish goalkeeper Joel, who will take the role in between the sticks.
Will the side be weakened too much yet again? Against Bradford the side wasn’t strong enough overcome them, while against Bournemouth we were lucky to get through. Will this be a repeat? I would like to think not.
Each game the lads play they are learning what to do and how to cope with the changing situations in the game. They are also learning how to cope with teams which try to get in your faces and beat you with their determination and work rate both on and off the ball. That is a good lesson to learn as you have to match them stride for stride.
Macclesfield will have their usual first team out as they try to unsettle Latics. They can afford to go for the win in this game, as they haven’t to worry about being relegated from the conference, so giving their all is on the cards.
So how do you counter a team which Martinez is unlikely to find much coverage on? We have to play our game, as we all know Martinez is a tactician. He likes to have a game plan and know exactly what each play will do for the full 90 minutes. Yet is it possible to plan against a team where TV coverage is limited?
From reading around online you can find out who is going to cause our defence a problem. Striker Matthew Barnes-Homer has bagged 20 goals in total this season, not the kind of player we want to come up against. If he knows his way towards the goal, then he is likely to cause us problems. He managed to bag two against Cardiff in the last ten minutes as the Silkmen got through to the fourth round. The 26 year old is strong on the ball and has some pace to burn to get in behind our defence.
Macclesfield are going to be without their first choice keeper Lance Cronin after he picked up a finger injury in training during the week. They have looked to Shrewsbury to sign goalkeeper Joe Anyon on loan for the next week to come into the team to face Latics. But there are no other new injury worries for them.
Will Wigan win? We are all expecting one; the traveling faithful will be expecting a big performance from our lads. We can’t afford a replay, so getting the win and heading into the fifth round will not only boost team morale but hopefully the fan morale. Can we turn our cup success to league success? That comes in time as you start to head towards a place in the final and a chance of claiming some silverware.