Wigan remain favourites to win League One and soar into the Championship despite missing a glorious chance to go top of the table on Saturday.
That surprise defeat at Portsmouth left the Latics third in the table, two points behind Blackburn and one behind Shrewsbury. However, they have crucial games in hand and they are still odds-on to win the title and command extremely short odds to go up. Yet they cannot afford many further slip ups and Saturday’s game against MK Dons looks like a must-win clash.
Online sports betting sites are offering prices on Wigan winning League One and the best odds available are just 2/3, while many will only offer 3/5 or 4/7. When it comes to being promoted, the best price on offer is 1/20, suggesting it will take a monumental effort to overhaul the Latics now.
The run-in does not look particularly taxing for Paul Cook’s men, but Saturday’s 2-1 reverse against Pompey shows the pitfalls of a lack of intensity and lapses in concentration. They have eight games left: home clashes with MK Dons, Rotherham, Oxford and AFC Wimbledon, and trips to Rochdale, Fleetwood, Bristol Rovers and Doncaster. Most of those teams are in the bottom half of the table, and Wigan simply need to stay focused and they should cruise to the title.
The weekend’s game looks easy on paper, and Wigan are the heavy favourites to win it, while MK Dons are all the way out at 19/2. That is the longest set of odds on any team in the division this coming weekend, and Wigan’s are the shortest.
But the Dons are just one point above the drop zone and the team below them, Rochdale, have games in hand, so they will be desperately battling for points. Those sorts of teams are extremely dangerous at this time of year, so the Latics will need to show greater discipline and maturity than they displayed at Fratton Park at the weekend.
They secured a 1-0 win in Milton Keynes earlier this season, and beat Rochdale 1-0 at the DW Stadium, so they should go into both games full of confidence.
They could hardly wish for an easier run of games to end the season, as the highest places team they will face is Rotherham, who fourth, while Rovers are 10th, Fleetwood are 13th, Doncaster are 14th and Oxford are 17th. The Latics have more than enough quality in their team to take maximum points and surge into the Championship in style. After all, this is a team that beat Man City, Bournemouth and West Ham this season.
Cook’s star has risen over the course of the campaign, after he succeeded where Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger all failed, by beating Man City. Several jobs are available in the summer, including West Brom and Ipswich, and Cook is said to be in the running for them.
It is understandable that he is drawing admiring glances from rivals, but he should stay at Wigan and lead them back into the Premiership. This club was playing top flight football not so long ago and won the FA Cup, so he has as good a chance of getting to the Promised Land with the Latics as he does with clubs like Ipswich, even West Brom.
The group of players under him at Wigan is bursting with talent, and they could well secure consecutive promotions after proving themselves against Premiership sides this season. But first they have to see out the job and make it up to the second tier of English football, starting against MK Dons on Saturday.