It is very easy for fans to cast aside an end of season defeat when there is very little to play for.
However, for the coach and players, the penultimate game of the season can prove to be a valuable lesson in both understanding why the squad haven’t achieved more and what they need to do to improve.
Tuesday nights defeat at Newport was almost inevitable, given that Latics had already failed at the hurdle of needing to win their last three games. The players can be forgiven for having their attention on a beach in Marbella, rather than the drab surroundings of South Wales. With Newport still able to make it into the top seven, the game was always going to be keenly contested.
What Athletic’s players were probably not prepared for was the physical onslaught wreaked on them by a Newport side desperate not to lose.
Both captain Peter Clarke and George Edmundson had to leave the field with injuries, following Newport’s attempts to barge into our players at every opportunity. It highlighted a problem we have had with other sides this season who are intent on imposing their physical strength on the game, once they have decided whether the referee will let them get away with it or not.
Athletic have won a good number of games this season with confident, passing football but they need to also learn that playing ‘ugly’ in the manner of MK Dons, Lincoln and Newport also gets you results and although it isn’t a pretty sight, it is sadly part of the formula for escaping League Two in the right direction.
For Peter Wild, the lesson learned needs to be to expect spoiler tactics and aerial bombardments as part of League Two life and to adjust his team accordingly. Latics fans wouldn’t want to see our players crumble into a heap at the sight of an opposition players shadow, but imposing ourselves on the game right from the kick off might be a valuable lesson.