Analysis: Wigan 0 Rovers 0 - No goals but no shortage of promise

Gary Mackenzie heads just wide of the post.
Gary Mackenzie heads just wide of the post.
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That Rovers were left disappointed and frustrated to come away with just a point from one of the promotion hot tips tells the story of their Sunday afternoon out.

On the evidence of this goalless draw, punters would be more wise to lump on Paul Dickov’s men rather than Wigan Athletic in the race for the Championship.

Barring the important element that is sticking the ball in the back of the net, Rovers were much the better side against Gary Caldwell’s freshly-relegated outfit.

They fought harder for longer than their hosts, who still look to be adapting to life in League One.

And so it is hard to be overwhelmed with frustration following such a fine performance, and a promising one from such an early point of the season.

Should Rovers play as they did on Sunday afternoon on a regular basis, ambitions of making the top six will surely be fulfilled.

It was a collective effort that deserved three points. As did the amount of good chances they created. Their dominant corner count of 14-3 was the perfect summation of the balance of play.

Andy Williams missed a painfully glorious opportunity after being sent clean through in the first half and Harry Forrester poked wide with the goal at his mercy.

There will also have been some disappointment Rovers were not awarded at least one penalty during the later stages first half.

Coppinger was clattered by Reece James as he looked to dart into the box, in what looked a perfect example of an incident which would have been a foul in a less contentious area of the pitch. That is was difficult to tell whether or not it was inside the box likely led to referee David Webb ignoring it.

And moments later, Williams was clattered by two Wigan defenders as he rose to meet a superb cross from Forrester but received no sympathy from Webb.

But Rovers created enough chances, and good ones at that, to have won the game without being gifted an opportunity from 12 yards.

The effort levels in such trying times could not be criticised. Rovers gave their everything from the first whistle, pressing incredibly well and launching into rapid counterattacks. It was a superb effort given there was just one change from the cup win over Leeds United three days earlier that went to extra time.

And though the energy required for the quick transition from defence to attack sapped away in the later stages, they had enough left in the tank to keep their shape and ensure Wigan were shut out.

The Latics were simply never allowed to settle into the game. The hosts looked to play out from the back but Rovers pounced quickly.

The pressing work from Rovers continued into midfield, forcing Wigan to play long balls into the channels which bore little fruit. And it continued right through until the final whistle.

Rovers should have been in front after two minutes when Williams capitalised on confusion between Wigan keeper Richard O’Donnell and his defence, latching onto a loose ball and cutting back to Forrester who fired wide. The first golden opportunity.

Andy Butler scuffed an attempted clearance into the hands of the fortuitously-placed Thorsten Stuckmann while Michael Jacobs clipped the crossbar with a free kick from 20 yards as Wigan threatened. But the hosts dropped away, frustrated by Rovers’ attempts to close them out, allowing the visitors began to take control.

The best chance of the game came on the half hour mark. James Coppinger spotted the run of Williams and punted across the pitch, sending the striker clean through. His first touch was excellent but his second was much too heavy, allowing O’Donnell to race out and close the gap.

Williams again looked bright, and the link-up play between him and the midfield continues to develop. But scoring from the spot against Leeds was clearly not the touchpaper lit for his Rovers goalscoring career.

Forrester drew the game’s best save from O’Donnell when he struck a cut back from MacKenzie first time, producing an acrobatic tip over from the Wigan keeper.

Rovers continued after the break as they had done in the first and Caldwell blinked first, making a double substitution nine minutes into the second half in a bid to find a way into the game.

But Rovers were still the better side. MacKenzie hit the bar with a looping header as they continued to push.

While there was a sense they could be made to rue their missed chances, Wigan did not look particularly capable of punishing them. Jacobs and Power both shot from distance but could not trouble Stuckmann.

And Rovers looked the more likely to nick it. Williams struck wide with an attempted overhead kick while substitute Curtis Main narrowly missed MacKenzie’s header back across goal.

And so they were forced to settle for a point. But they can head forward with their chests puffed out, knowing exactly of what they are capable.