Well Wigan coach Brian Noble has been getting a lot of stick this
last week on the back of our third defeat in four home matches
against Huddersfield last Friday.
I've stated on the boards that I do have some sympathy with him
because he and the club had not planned for Trent Barrett to
return home a year early - and its clear to me had Barrett been here
we would be near the top of the table. We certainly would have won
all our three home defeats in my opinion. When we have lost it
hasn't been by much.
But whilst I do have sympathy in that respect, I can't do
nothing but agree with those critical of our style of play. It's
not entertaining in the slightest and I am sick to the back teeth
of us always starting games too slow. We proved it yet again last
Friday, we ended up in a having to come from behind to win situation -
which has been the case in most matches this year. It's no
coincidence that our two biggest wins have been in the two games
we took control of early. Ok they were against the desperately
poor looking Bradford and Salford but we do need to start
games a whole lot better.
Another thing that annoys me is the language Noble uses. I mean
I was very amused last weekend reading the thread entitled "Your Favourite
Noble-isms". He does have some weird post match sayings.
But for me it's not the things he says but how he says it. It
seems to be the same tone every week. You'd have more sympathy
with him if on the back of a bad defeat he lost his rag in public,
that way we'd all see the passion and hurt. We certainly saw that
from the chairman after the 34-4 Huddersfield defeat last season.
Ok it may have been due to a unluckily timed fans forum in the
aftermath of it but he gave the team a public dressing down and they
responded with a huge win against Hull the week after - that can't
have been a coincidence.
But do I join the call for Noble to be sacked? I'm really not
sure to be honest. I'm still not convinced we need to panic at
this point - although one thing is for sure, another embarrassing
derby day on Good Friday would be the final straw surely. He can't
afford a bad Easter. I would also say I'm not sure their are too
many top coaches out of work at the moment that would want the
It also doesn't look like Noble is in too much trouble though
with the club openly chasing the signature of Martin Gleeson. On
paper its a good move to try and fill the long standard void that
is our right centre position but you learn not to get to excited.
Wigan have an uncanny knack of signing top players on paper and
then turning them into absolute duds - so we shall see. If Gleeson
is to play on Sunday he would have to be signed before 5pm Friday.
Anyway this weekend Wigan get a break from the trials of Super
League with the start of the road to Wembley in the Challenge Cup.
With five all Super League ties, the draw was fairly kind giving us a
trip to Championship side Barrow.
Trips to the Barrow version of Craven Park were a regular jaunt
for Wigan fans in the 1980's but this will be our first trip there
since a league clash in 1989 when Wigan beat Barrow 66-0 in the
league thanks to tries from John Gilfillan (2), Shaun Edwards (2),
Ged Stazicker (2), Ged Byrne (2), Phil Blake, Mark Preston, David
Marshall and Dean Bell.
In the Challenge Cup this will be the eight
cup meeting between the sides. Wigan have won 5 and Lost 2 of the
previous seven meetings, but at Barrow the home side hold the advantage 2
wins to 1!
The last time the sides met in the Challenge Cup was
back in February 1965 when Frank Parr (2), Billy Boston and Trevor
Lake went over in an easy 16-0 win at Central Park. Wigan went on
to beat, who you believe, Hunslet in the Cup Final that year.
1951 the two sides met in the Cup Final at Wembley with Wigan
winning 10-0 thanks to tries from Ken Gee and Jack Hilton.
current Barrow side have started well this season having reached
the Quarter Finals of the Northern Rail Cup and winning two out of
three matches in the Co-Operative Championship so far. They had
been on a five match winning streak before narrowly losing 26-24
at home to Halifax last Saturday.
They do have some recognised
names, especially in the forwards. At prop they have Ned Catic an
experienced Australian who played in the NRL with Penrith and
Sydney Roosters and with Wakefield and Castleford in recent Super
League seasons. I understand he hasn't played for Barrow yet due
to the visa problems but they are hoping he will arrive in time to
play in this game.
Elsewhere in the centres they have Zeb Luisi
who played for Harlequins between 2004 and 2007. In the back row
they have Andrew Brocklehurst who played in Super League for
Halifax, London and Salford whilst Paul Noone played in Super
League with Warrington and Harlequins. Andy Bracek was playing for
Warrington up to last season and also made a substitute appearance
for St Helens in 2004.
In the backs though they perhaps lack
experience and this is where I would expect Wigan to take control.
Youngsters Shaun Ainscough and Sam Tomkins have been able to rip
Super League defences apart at times this season with shear pace
and you would expect them to do well against lower league
opposition. Sam Tomkins scored five making his debut in the cup
against Whitehaven last season remember.
But although Wigan did
beat Whitehaven 106-8 at the JJB last season, I honestly believe
this will be a tighter contest. Wigan will win, I've no doubt
about that but I don't see Barrow rolling over like Whitehaven
did. They will battle hard but I expect Wigan to take control in
the last half hour.
It would be nice if Wigan gave one or two
youngsters a chance at Barrow without being too disrespectful to
them. Lee Mossop and Mark Flanagan perhaps two who would deserve a
chance? I think we can afford one or two changes because I think
the backs will out pace Barrow in the end. Not just Ainscough and
Tomkins but George Carmont and Pat Richards will also cause
problems I expect.
It's been years since Barrow had a big side
like us turn up and cup fever is gripping the town and the ground
almost sold out. They are a club on the up after gaining promotion
last season and will relish this.
It'll be something new for
many Wigan fans as well with this being our first trip to the
apparent Rugby League hotbed that is Cumbria since 1996 when
Workington played in Super League. It's a long way to go but I'm
thoroughly looking forward to it.