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Wigan Athletic Preview


LancsVillan
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by blandy

The next leg of our holiday treble of games sees us tootling off to the North West to play a Wigan team showing definite signs of revival following their change of manager.

What should we expect, then?

The weather - take a coat, the North West is a soggy place right now. And glue down your syrup, it's gonna be windy.

The ground - it's a tidy ground, the JJB. Away fans gather in one end, holding about 5,400. The view is good, thanks to the fairly steep slope of the stand and a lack of pillars and posts.

The JJB stadium holds around 25,000 when full and there should be a healthy crowd at the game, thanks in part to Wigan's enlightened ticket pricing policy.

Wigan is a small town, with plenty of local, much bigger clubs drawing the casual supporter away towards Manchester or Liverpool. So Wigan compete on price, having decided that the TV revenue ought to be enough to keep them going. 15 quid for a ticket is a bargain, frankly. Newcastle sold out their end for the last game, and we've done the same. It should make for a cracking atmosphere. It's how it should be.

The ground is however not the most easily accessed, being at a sort of dead end if you're going by car, and a bit of a walk if you're on the train.

Comestibles. Well Wigan is the self styled pie capital of the world and as a result the visitor is faced with a selection of delicious pastry encrusted goodies on which to munch. Try one, they really are pretty excellent.

Thirsty? - well there are pubs nearby the ground, and plenty more in the town centre, about 15-20 minutes walk from the ground. We'll be going into the town for our pre match sharpeners.

Oh and one last thing I suppose I should mention - the football. I don't expect the team will be much different from the one that has played pretty well in the last few games. Curtis Davies will likely replace Zat Knight after Knight's appeal against his Chelsea red-card was rejected on Friday. Shaun Maloney would be very harshly treated having scored 2 on Boxing day, to be dropped for Stan Petrov. I guess we'll therefore be unchanged from the team that started at Chelsea, unless Freddie Bouma doesn't make it after seeming to hurt his ankle at the end of the Chelsea game - in which case maybe GB will drop to left back, and Stan Petrov will come in alongside NRC.

Wigan have won their last 2 home games, albeit against sides not in the best of form, and they also drew at Fulham. Villa have been solid, score goals and are playing with spirit and skill. I expect a close game, probably spoilt a bit by a heavy pitch and wet and windy conditions. There's a decent ref, for once, too - Howard Webb is apparently going to be in charge.

May the best team win, and we all know that's us. Enjoy.

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If we avoid defeat at Wigan we will also break a club record in the top division as never before (even in a title winning season) have we gone from the start of a season in the top flight to the end of that year without losing more than 1 away league game.

The only other time we did this in our entire history was in our promotion year 1987/88 when we lost our 2nd away game at Hull and then went on to be unbeaten away until 14/2.

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Lawro predicts on BBC Football (and why should I doubt him?):

"Wigan have done well under Steve Bruce so far, but Newcastle were poor against them on Wednesday and I expect Villa to give them a much sterner test. Villa have got great pace all across the front areas and I feel it will be difficult for Wigan to cope with them. Prediction: 1-2." :winkold:

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