January has been a barren month so far for the region’s football clubs, who have collectively recorded a miserly two wins from 16 games since January 12.
Blackpool typify this poor form having lost their last three games. Their most recent setback came against Manchester United in a 3-2 defeat. The Seasiders were 2-0 up and cruising at half-time thanks to goals from Craig Cathcart and DJ Campbell; however, United introduced Ryan Giggs and Javier Hernandez after the break, and their presence told. Blackpool wilted and conceded three goals in 16 minutes as they threw away what could have been a famous victory, with Berbatov striking the winner after 88 minutes.
Blackpool had good reason to be devastated after losing a game they dominated for periods, especially after referee Peter Walton denied them a penalty for a Rafael foul on Luke Varney with the score at 2-0.
The one positive for Blackpool was the performance of talismanic midfielder Charlie Adam, who provided assists for both goals and dictated play in the first half. If Adam does leave Blackpool in the next few days, his latest display will have upped his price tag and improved his standing in the game further still.
This defeat against the champions elect came on the back of two disappointing losses. Fellow newcomers West Bromwich Albion scraped to 3-2 at the Hawthorns thanks to a brace from Peter Odemwinge, with the winner coming in the 87th minute. Blackpool were also beaten 2-1 by Sunderland at Bloomfield Road with Kieran Richardson netting a brace and goalkeeper Craig Gordon in superb form.
Wigan have also suffered a slump having collected just one point from a possible nine, which came in a battling 1-1 draw at the DW Stadium against Fulham. However, the Latics should perhaps have taken all three points after Hugo Rodellega had given them the lead with a well executed chip over Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale. They were denied all three points by Andy Johnson’s first goal since he returned from injury, on 86 minutes.
A more predictable result was the 3-0 hammering from the away tie at Arsenal. Wigan were outplayed in every department and it would be hard to envisage a more one sided Premier League game. Robin Van Persie grabbed a superb hat-trick and Wigan relied on an excellent display from Ali Al-Habsi to prevent the score line getting embarrassing. To compound their misery, centre-half Gary Caldwell was dismissed for a clumsy foul when last man.
The Latics most recent game also ended in defeat at the hands of a resurgent Aston Villa. Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor had given Villa a 2-0 lead, before a late consolation from James McCarthy briefly gave Wigan hope. Once again, Wigan lacked a cutting edge and looked shaky in defence against the pace of Villa.
Wigan’s record signing Mauro Boselli has been loaned out to Serie A side Genoa. Roberto Martinez is keen for the striker to rediscover his goal scoring form and that an extended period of first team will improve his match sharpness.
Although Preston have only taken two points from their last two games, Phil Brown will be pleased with a pair of dogged performances. North End claimed a 1-1 draw at home to Leicester thanks to a last gasp Ian Hulme strike after Yakubu had netted on his debut. Preston also secured a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough thanks to a 90th minute Billy Jones header. This really was a smash and grab from Preston, who had just 38% of possession and five shots in a game they could have easily lost. North End have added firepower to a threadbare squad thanks to the signing of Nathan Ellington, who will look to add his 150 plus career goals. His experience at this level will aid Preston as they continue to struggle against the drop.
Another side yet to win in the last two weeks are Fleetwood Town; the Highbury outfit have stumbled to a tally of just two points from their last nine. The most positive result came with a 1-1 draw against table-topping AFC Wimbledon. Fleetwood showed great resilience to battle back from an early Danny Kedwell strike, with the prolific Magno Vieira grabbing an equalizer. Town battled hard and maintained possession superbly. However, the Dons defended stoutly and the spoils were shared. This was followed up with a disappointing 1-1 result against lowly Hayes and Yeading; Nathan Pond was the villain after being dismissed just two minutes after coming off the bench. In their latest game, Fleetwood were left frustrated by a stubborn Kettering side as they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat.
Morecambe have managed to secure a victory recently, however they have also been beaten twice. Their positive result came with a 2-1 home win over Torquay thanks to a pair of penalties from Laurence Wilson. This result was tainted by a 2-0 reverse at Stevenage; who raced into a two nil lead inside ten minutes, and a 2-1 defeat against Hereford, who broke Shrimpers hearts with an 80th minute goal from Michael Townsend.
Lancaster have fared similarly, with one win and one defeat in their last two. The win came in impressive fashion with a 5-2 victory over Garforth Town, with an 18-yard header from Andy Teague starting the rout. This was followed by a damaging 2-1 defeat to play-off rivals Clitheroe, who scored a heartbreaking 87th minute winner through Ryan Fisher.