The town of Wigan is known for many things, Wigan Pier, their love of pies, their work in the community, their passion for Wigan Warriors – in my opinion the best Rugby team in the world – and Rugby League.
What many locals probably don’t talk about though is the good home record they currently hold over Blackburn Rovers at the DW Stadium.
It wasn’t always this way as Rovers actually won the first three competitive meetings & kept three clean sheets in the process. They won 0-2 in the League Cup courtesy of an Andy Cole brace in December 2002. On New Year’s Eve 2005, Rovers won the first league meeting on DW soil – thanks to goals from Morten Gamst Pedersen, Craig Bellamy & a spectacular strike from Steven Reid, which ended up being Rovers’ goal of the season. Lightning struck twice the following season, as an Emile Heskey own goal, Matty Derbyshire & a Benni McCarthy penalty saw Rovers repeat a second successive 3-0 win.
Ever since that faithful New Year’s Day in 2007, it has a decade since Rovers last tasted victory. In that time, highlights have included a couple of 5-3 classics, one coming from 3-0 down with 10 men to level 3-3 in an eight goal thriller that Rovers lost, the scene of Paul Ince’s last game in charge as a below par Rovers were soundly beaten by the hosts 3-0. There’s been a couple of 4-3 thrillers, last minute heartbreak with 10 men, and Paul Robinson earning Rovers a last minute penalty to salvage a dramatic 3-3 draw in 2011.
No Rovers supporters who travelled to Wigan will need reminding of last season’s visit as the Owen Coyle reign of terror was just starting. Quite simply Rovers didn’t turn up & looks very disjointed as Wigan just ran wild, eventually prevailing 3-0. I remember afterwards walking out hearing a few Latics’ supporters saying that they probably wouldn’t get an easier game to play all season and that we were really poor, and deserve to go down. Those words couldn’t ring more true as Rovers did indeed face the drop but so did the Latics.
Why do Rovers continue to struggle on this ground? That’s the question on my mind.
Granted the former Premier League Champions have been on the receiving end of a few hidings from the hosts but for the most part the games that have been closely contested, Rovers have gone into the lead on a few occasions only to fall short. Rovers, for the most part in recent fixtures at Wigan, have been on top only for the Latics to grab a goal & it seems to be a struggle from there, either that or a silly incident happens like a sending off.
In order for Rovers to win this game, they need to contain the Wigan front line, as they will run at you if let them. Mowbray’s men need to frustrate them & be combative right from the very first whistle & get right in their faces – constantly speaking to each other & defending from the front whilst hitting them on the break. The first goal is very crucial in this game & Rovers have been very good at protecting a lead this season when they have gone ahead in a contest.
The supporters making the short trip will have a massive part to play as well. No doubt when Rovers play at the DW, they always travel well in great numbers & hopefully this time is no different. We need to stay with the team from the first whistle to the last & make as much noise as possible throughout the 90 minutes because that can make a massive difference & not to get on their backs.
These two teams are evenly matched on paper, the differences are the core of the Wigan squad were part of the 2015/16 League 1 title winning side & know what it takes to be promoted, and they have been more consistent than Rovers to date this season. Rovers, however, have the quality to break down a stubborn Latics defence when the likes of Bradley Dack, Harry Chapman, Corry Evans & Danny Graham are in our squad & when they click, they can and they will cause any team in League 1 massive problems.
Rovers go into this game as underdogs with the Latics in red hot form but should believe that are more than capable of beating any opposition & they are more than able to beat Wigan Athletic & snap a decade long barren run to end a decade of hurt at the DW.
The only way we will know is come 5pm Saturday afternoon when hopefully Rovers come away with a crucial win & 3 massive points.
Come on you Blues!
Can’t make it to the game on Saturday? Follow us on Instagram at @rovers_chat or on Snapchat at onerovers to see highlights from the day.