- The absence of Andrew Tutte from the Bury matchday squad speaks volumes about his current status. Originally, I thought it must have been because he had succumbed to a knock sustained in the midweek customary EFL Cup first round exit against Sunderland but the reality is more damning for the Liverpudlian on two fronts: firstly, according to manager Lee Clark, he has “fallen down the pecking order behind Tsun Dai and Callum Styles”, both of whom, for all their skills, are not really in the same mould as Tutte’s ‘jack-of-all-trades’ style of central midfield play. Secondly, the signing of free agent Alex Bruce and thrusting him straight into the first XI is a further damning indictment. Couple this with the admission that three or four players could leave Gigg Lane before the end of the current transfer window and even with Stephen Dawson consigned to the sidelines until the Christmas period, Tutte’s future looks likely to be elsewhere.
- Speaking of Bruce, he was tasked with largely combatting Wigan’s attacking midfield trio behind Ivan Toney by himself in an anchor man role. Whilst performing admirably in the first half (and taking his equaliser superbly), he was inevitably going to tire in the second 45 minute period. Dawson’s prolonged absence highlights a lack of a true replacement in his role. The former Hull City player is of course a tough tackler but is only a stop-gap in an area in need of dire attention before the month of August is over… and he’s currently only at the club on non-contract terms.
- For the Latics’ opening goal, the defensive positioning by Craig Jones is insipid. For the second match in a row, he gets sucked in to where the ball is rather than the man he’s supposed to be marking, leaving a massive gap down his flank for Sunday’s hosts to attack. Michael Jacobs drifted inside from the left and wasn’t tracked by Jones until it was too late, getting on the end of a simple cutback from the supremely impressive Nick Powell. The level of movement and intricacy of play between Powell, Jacobs and Gavin Massey is something that should be keenly looked at by Clark and his coaching staff if they want to take the game to the opposition during most encounters. Their ability to do is was down in no small part to the solid ‘base’ further down the pitch…
- Paul Cook changed tack after going in to the dressing room at half-time at level pegging, sensing that the ‘groups’ in midfield could press higher up the pitch. This had a twofold effect: firstly, it meant that there was always an extra man free (normally Sam Morsy) but beyond the halfway line, reducing the recovery time further for those in black shirts when possession was conceded. Secondly, it also meant that the space between Jermaine Beckford and his teammates became akin to a chasm as Clark’s charges had to commit more bodies to defensive duties in an attempt to punch back in the midfield battle. It worked a treat for the former Portsmouth boss and allowed them to dictate the tempo for the rest of the match. Powell was the beneficiary from Lee Evans’ deep cross and they often had at least three bodies in the area taking up good positions.
- The lead-up to the penalty should ring alarm bells for Clark. The Latics were able to pass and move around the box with little in the way of defensive responsibility being taken to at least disrupt their flow, if not win the ball back. I’ve seen the incident for the penalty a few times and it’s hard to disagree with the referee’s decision; Adam Thompson’s needless heavy handling gave him little option and Powell’s spot-kick was coolness personified. By then, the match was over as a contest.
- The fourth goal was an excellent long-range strike by Evans… but it was just unutterably easy for them to play between the rigid-looking lines the visitors were in and for the Wolves loanee to pick his spot and not be closed down. If you wanted to use this match as evidence for how the two Lancashire teams’ respective seasons were going to pan out, you would say that Wigan are a well-drilled outfit, particularly blessed in midfield and with Toney and Will Grigg as options up front, they could easily ‘beat’ my prediction of a comfortable mid-table finish. Likewise, you could say that especially shorn of Dawson, Bury won’t be flirting with the play-offs. However, I am of the belief that it’s simply far too early to draw any meaningful conclusions after just two league matches. Doubtlessly, the Latics have been impressive thus far but I’ll stick with my pre-season judgement.
- As for the Shakers, they need to show more defensive resolve and the returns to fitness for full-backs Joe Skarz and Phil Edwards in time for Saturday’s clash with Bristol Rovers should go some way to helping in that endeavour. Equally pressing is the need for more midfield cohesiveness to enable creativity from players like Harry Bunn and Chris Maguire in open play. Beckford is ploughing somewhat of a lone furrow at present and as dangerous in front of goal as he is, he isn’t able to do much without more ample support and that must come sooner rather than later.