Wigan Athletic returned to life in the Championship with a dogged win over Ipswich Town in Sunday’s solitary game. After a storming start away at Barnsley, Wigan’s domestic form has been somewhat patchy since, reflected in their league position of 11th. Nevertheless, it’s been a fine four days for the club. Thursday’s 0-0 draw at Zulte Waregem, runners up in last season’s Belgian top division, marked a very credible opening to life in the Europa League, and Sunday’s result proved Owen Coyle could dig deep enough into his squad to grind out a league win.
He’ll need to keep doing it. With the Europa league stretching out until December at least, Wigan face 20 fixtures between now and the end of the year, with the possible addition of a League Cup run. Realistically the latter is unlikely, having uncannily drawn Manchester City – the club they shocked in the FA Cup to reach Europe – in the third round, to be played on Tuesday evening; then again, with City thrashing it out in the Manchester derby on Sunday, Manuel Pellegrini may have some weary legs to rest as well, albeit on the back of a superb 4-1 win over their bitter rivals.
It must have been somewhat surreal for Wigan players and fans alike watching Tottenham and Swansea having to negotiate the qualifying stages, knowing their own team had already made it via that glorious day at Wembley. However, with Birmingham having enjoyed their own Europa League campaign two seasons ago, the Championship is no longer a stranger to one of its own dealing with concurrent life on the continent. Not that that should take anything away from Wigan’s achievement.
Manchester United loanee Nick Powell was the scorer of Wigan’s second goal on Sunday and if David Moyes can take any consolation from the weekend, it is the staggering form of another of his youngsters, Jesse Lingard, who scored four times on his debut for Birmingham, significantly the first goals the Blues had managed for four games. It was a highly valuable win for Lee Clark’s side, who climbed to 18th, having been amongst the relegation pack last week. It was another painful blow for their opponents, Sheffield Wednesday, however, who stay in that area and remain without a win, a stat shared solely with Bolton, who slipped to the foot of the league via a 3-1 defeat at Brighton.
Bolton boss Dougie Freedman, who is said to be under increasing pressure at the Reebok, put a brave face on his position. “I think my job is very safe,”
At the top end of the table, QPR now lead the way by three points and are going quietly but effectively about their business. Harry Redknapp’s side may not have produced spectacular performances so far – each of their six wins have been by the odd goal and they were fortunate to beat a resolute Yeovil side on Saturday – but one suspects the west Londoners still have a gear in reserve, which could be an ominous sign for the rest of the division. Burnley enjoyed an impressive 2-1 win at Leeds to go second, but both Leicester and Blackpool are snapping at their heels on the same points.
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