A 2-1 victory in our game against Wigan Athletic saw us climb up to 6th place in the Championship at Bristol City’s expense after they lost on Friday night against Birmingham City.
North End started the game very strongly and in truth could have been two or three up by half time. We allowed The Latics back into the game but a strong defensive display in the last 20 minutes or so ensured that we came away with all 3 points.
Andrew Hughes and Seani Maguire both returned to the lineup for this game, but it was two familiar players who turned out to be the match winners for us with Daniel Johnson and Tom Barkhuizen both providing for each other. Here’s five things we learned from the Wigan game:
DJ’s a Joy to Watch This Season
No one could have predicted the sort of season Daniel Johnson would be having. We know what he is capable of, but his time with us in the Championship has been mixed. Of course, he was linked with a move to Wigan Athletic in the summer and a few fans thought it would have been the right time for him to go.
We have an abundance of options in the centre of midfield, it is certainly the strongest area of the squad, but DJ has taken his chance this season and is a hugely important part of the team. His spell out with injury at the back end of last year showed how important to the side he is.
With 10 goals and 5 assists in 21 appearances this season, the Jamaican contributes to a goal every 118 minutes. His assist and goal for us on Saturday shouldn’t be taken for granted. He stayed onside perfectly for Ben Pearson’s pass, and then laid it on a plate for Tom Barkhuizen.
He took his goal superbly as well, getting into the perfect position at the right time. A key player for us.
Barky’s in Form
His two goals against Barnsley the other week were welcomed after a bit of a drought. He scored his tenth goal of the season against Wigan this weekend and his pace caused them problems all day. Seeing him on the ball with space in front to run into puts you on the edge of your seat, and you know he’s potentially about to deliver something.
That was exactly the case on Saturday, picking up the ball around 60 yards from goal, he sprinted ahead, played a one-two with Alan Browne after finding space around the defence, and then picking out DJ to add the second.
Barky is also a key player for us, and with Scott Sinclair coming into the club recently he may have felt some pressure to keep his place in the team. However, he has upped his game and has by far outshone Sinclair in the five games we’ve played since his arrival.
Ben Pearson is Unbelievable
I’m running out of words to describe this man. He seems to be the recipient of the man of the match award every time, and it’s barely ever a contest.
He never seems to tire, his endless energy allows us to play our game with ease. If we’re ever in trouble he appears out of nowhere to snuff out the danger. He gets better and better with every match and his all-round game is improving.
His pass to DJ for the first goal was exquisite, and he repeated it for Sinclair just moments later, and the ex-Celtic man should have got his shot on target at least. His vision is underrated, often spraying balls across the pitch, and finding passes that many others would struggle to. There’s so much to love about this man.
He’s a player that every other club hates to play against and after the game Jermaine Beckford said he believes Pearo could play for a top six club in the Premier League. For sure, Manchester United could do with him back, he would easily slot into their team.
Harrop was Harshly Dropped
After being nominated for Championship player of the month Josh Harrop found himself on the bench, with Seani Maguire taking his place in the side.
A tough decision from Alex Neil after such a strong January for Harrop. His talent is plain to see and with 8 goals and 2 assists in a stop-start season for him, it’s obvious he provides a lot for us.
With the strongest goals to minutes ratio in the squad of one every 158 minutes, he deserves more time on the pitch. Obviously, Neil will have had his reasons to bring Maguire in, and the Irishman very nearly scored but for a great save from David Marshall.
I think Harrop deserves a good run in the team though, and we are more likely to get a goal from Harrop than we are Maguire but then that can leave us without a natural striker up-front and a little unbalanced.
We’re Getting Important Wins
Our last three wins have come against Charlton Athletic, Barnsley and Wigan Athletic; three teams all at the wrong end of the table all battling to stay up. These can potentially turn out to be banana skins, but we have dispatched of them all, in honestly, relatively comfortably.
In past seasons, we’d often come unstuck against these teams and lose ground on the top six. Leeds United, for instance, lost against Wigan last week, and are stuck in a rut having lost five of their last six in all competitions.
Bristol City lost at home on Friday to a Birmingham City side you would expect them to beat, especially after going a goal up inside the first minute. We’re showing why we are in the top six by overcoming these teams, and it helps build momentum.
Another game against a relegation struggler comes on Wednesday against Stoke City but this one will be a tough game as the Potters have certainly improved since former Northern Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill took charge.
If you’re going to be at the Bet 365 stadium, Jake, Jimmy, Oli and myself will all be in attendance. If you want to come and say hello, feel free to slide into our DMs on twitter. If you fancy buying us here at From the Finney a brew as a little thank you for the content we produce, it’d mean a lot. Thanks in advance.