An­other loss but Mackay has faith

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Colin Hen­rys

DE­PART­ING chair­man Dave Whe­lan’s Wi­gan send-off ended with the Lat­ics star­ing into the rel­e­ga­tion abyss, but boss Malky Mackay is re­fus­ing to throw in the towel.

Alex Mowatt’s sec­ond-half strike earned Leeds victory and leaves Wi­gan eight points from safety with a cru­cial visit to Rother­ham up next week­end.

It came af­ter Whe­lan spoke to the Wi­gan faith­ful pre-match, re­count­ing the club’s tri­umphant jour­ney un­der his ten­ure, in­clud­ing their Pre­mier League years and FA Cup win.

But those tri­umphs seem a long time ago with Mackay fac­ing an up­hill strug­gle to keep Wi­gan, win­less at home in 15 matches now, in the Cham­pi­onship.

And Mackay ad­mit­ted their home strug­gles have left him scratch­ing his head.

“The per­for­mance level shows me that the play­ers are still fight­ing for it and no­body is giv­ing up here,” he said.

“If you just look at the stats, our pos­ses­sion and shots on goal would usu­ally earn a victory let alone scrap­ping to get some­thing out of the game.

“There were a lot of good per­for­mances but again we’ve got to put the ball in the net. We missed Leon Clarke who has been ter­rific up front.

“The play­ers are show­ing ev­ery week that they’re as good as any team in this league, and what we’re lack­ing is just that lit­tle bit of qual­ity up front.

“We have showed al­ready what back-to-back wins can do. We’ve just got to look af­ter our­selves and our own per­for­mance, start­ing next week at Rother­ham.”

De­spite Whe­lan’s im­pas­sioned pre-match speech, the game failed to spark early on with Sol Bamba’s tow­er­ing header, from Luke Mur­phy’s ninth-minute cor­ner, the first chance of note – with Scott Car­son sav­ing com­fort­ably.

At the other end, Kim Bo-Kyung seized on a loose ball on 28 min­utes but his shot de­flected wide off Bamba.

Wi­gan brought Don Cowie on for the be­low-par Jer­maine Pen­nant at half-time and the Scot im­me­di­ately saw a shot blocked by Giuseppe Bel­lusci.

James McClean then got a pow­er­ful shot away, af­ter Cowie and Sheyi Ojo worked a short cor­ner on 47 min­utes, but Marco Silvestri was equal to it at his near post.

Leeds were in front on 51 min­utes though, Mowatt al­low­ing a de­flected pass to run across his body be­fore un­leash­ing an un­stop­pable shot from the edge of the box.

Marc-An­toine For­tuné led the Wi­gan re­sponse, twice play­ing tan­ta­lis­ing balls across the six­yard box which first McClean, on 55 min­utes, and then Ojo two min­utes later were un­able to pro­vide a fin­ish­ing touch to.

McClean was in­volved again on 72 min­utes, his pow­er­ful strike hit­ting the side netting as Wi­gan threw men for­ward.

Leeds stood firm though and not even seven min­utes of stop­page time could bring a Wi­gan equaliser, de­spite McClean’s free-kick forc­ing an ac­ro­batic save from Silvestri on 91 min­utes.

Leeds boss Neil Red­fearn said: “The goal was a bit of qual­ity and bril­liance that was prob­a­bly not in keep­ing with the game.

“It was tough sur­face to play on but if any­body was go­ing to win it, I thought it would be us.

“I thought we had a real res­o­lute­ness about us to get across the line again. It’s been a real facet of our per­for­mance in re­cent months.

“We’ve got a list of in­juries but the to­geth­er­ness and will to win of the boys is there for all to see. It’s a real will to do well.

“I’m pleased for the fact we’ve got our­selves out of a bit of a pickle. It wasn’t good when I took over and we’ve got our­selves in a good po­si­tion now. That is down to every­body, not just me.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

MOWZAT!: Leeds United’s Alex Mowatt cel­e­brates scor­ing the win­ning goal with Steve Mori­son

UN­STOP­PABLE: Alex Mowatt pro­duces a mo­ment of qual­ity to seal victory for Leeds United

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