Owen Coyle denies that European exertions are having a detrimental effect on Wigan’s promotion bid but competing at home and abroad may be catching up with his side.
Less than 72 hours after drawing with Rubin Kazan in the Europa League, Wigan laboured to an uninspiring point at Charlton.
The Latics had coped well before with the Thursday-Sunday routine, winning their previous two Championship games after European fixtures, but they showed signs of fatigue as they missed an opportunity to close the gap to the promotion pack. They remain unbeaten in Europe but returning to the Premier League is the absolute priority this season – and yesterday’s draw leaves them eight points below the play-off zone.
Wigan’s schedule is more intense than that of any other team in the division; this was the first of three games in six days that should give a better indication of whether they can make up lost ground. Home fixtures against Queen’s Park Rangers and Huddersfield Town now look crucial.
Scott Carson, whom Coyle has backed to earn an England recall for the World Cup, was injured during the warm-up at The Valley so Lee Nicholls started in goal. The 21-year-old saved well from Bradley Pritchard early on as Wigan struggled for rhythm. Pritchard then missed the target from 10 yards after Cameron Stewart’s pull-back.
Charlton were dealt a blow just before the break when key man Yann Kermorgant, making his first start in over a month, had to be withdrawn with the ankle injury that has so far blighted his season.
Wigan did improve after the restart. Chris McCann rocked the bar with a header, James McArthur and Ben Watson both went close and Nick Powell volleyed over from four yards.
“You saw the chances but we need to be more ruthless,” admitted Coyle, who started with six of the team who played on Thursday.
“Credit to Charlton, but with the clear opportunities we had we should be leaving with the three points. But I’m not unduly worried. We’ve got good players. We’ve got to keep banging on the door and then there will be a flood. In the second half we were terrific. You can’t fault the players’ energy, desire and what they’re bringing over the season. We will be where we need to be.”