Wigan FanZoner Bob Allen reflects on Sunday's pre-season opener against Columbus Crew as Owen Coyle got off to a winning start as manager.
Early Sunday morning, the Latics got their pre-season programme underway with a fixture at the practically named Columbus Crew Stadium. One could argue that Columbus Crew should have provided the hardest test of the whole pre-season campaign as the most illustrious name on our pre-season schedule. Yet despite an influx of new players and having only 10 days of training under their belt, Wigan managed to provide the Latics faithful with a good display and whet the collective appetites of the fans ahead of the forthcoming season with a professional 2-1 victory.
Roger Espinoza provided a cross for James McCarthy to head home while Fraser Fyvie came off the bench to split the Columbus defence for new boy Marc-Antoine Fortuné to slot home coolly after good pressure by Nouha Dicko. The Crew turned up the heat towards the end of the game and managed to grab a deflected goal back, but Wigan managed to hold on to round off a successful night's workout for the FA Cup holders.
As expected at this stage of pre-season, the performance was not perfect. There were many misplaced passes into touch or to opposition and we looked susceptible to attacks down the wings, being undone by a few neat one-twos. However, the positives far outweighed the negatives.
There seemed to be no headache after losing Alcaraz, Kone et al. as several new signings slotted nicely into the team, albeit a quiet night for Carson and Holt. Despite the unimportance of the result, the Latics were able to hang on to a lead, something which was Wigan's downfall last season and ultimately cost us Premier League survival. Furthermore, the team were not afraid to hit the ball long when needed but also strung together passes on occasion. An ability to effectively play both a long and short passing game will add another dimension to our attack while stamping out the conceding of embarrassing goals like Figueroa's own goal versus Tottenham at the end of last season.
On the whole, early indications are positive for the new season and it will be interesting to see how the team continues to gel and to see the return of Maloney and McManaman, who only played a bit-part role in the fixture.
A special thanks must go out to Columbus Crew and their communications team for streaming the match live for everybody and for free through their website. Despite a few technical difficulties which included missing a goal, it was a very nice gesture which I have never seen, nor expect to be offered by an English club.
Wigan's next game takes place on Tuesday (16th July) against Dayton Dutch Lions before the final game of the US tour at the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Friday (19th July). Wiganers will be hoping to see signs of further improvement and sharpness as the new signings bed in and fitness improves.
You can find Bob on Twitter at @TheRealBobAllen.