Martinez demands more clean sheets

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has warned his side they must keep more clean sheets if they are to once again avoid relegation.

Last Updated: 24/02/13 at 13:46 Post Comment

Roberto Martinez: Pleased with defensive display against Reading

Roberto Martinez: Pleased with defensive display against Reading

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has warned his side they must keep more clean sheets if they are to survive for an eighth consecutive Barclays Premier League season.

The Latics have established their reputation under Martinez for a fluid passing game, however, the Spaniard believes the lack of a harder edge has proved costly this season.

Wigan have kept just four league clean sheets so far this term - remarkably all of them have come away from home - with the latest a 3-0 win at Reading on Saturday that pulled them out of the bottom three.

Reading had taken 10 points from the past 15 on offer but failed to get a shot on target as Arouna Kone's double added to a rare Maynor Figueroa strike banked the points.

While delighted to grab a first league win of 2013, Martinez was keener still to stress the importance of his side's defensive display as they look to beat the drop yet again.

"I would say defensively it was as good as it gets," he said.

"Defensively you know you are going to play against a Reading side that are strong, especially in the dead-ball situations. We dealt with that really well.

"We have to keep improving but to keep a clean sheet away from home, especially at the Madejski Stadium, is pleasing.

"Since they've changed tactically they have become a very difficult side to restrict.

"So that clean sheet pleases me as much as any defensive display this season.

"We have to make sure we replicate this level until the end of the season."

Martinez brought Paul Scharner back to the club last month and, while that raised some eyebrows, the veteran proved how vital his know-how in a relegation fight could be yesterday.

Most notably the versatile Austrian, who lined-up at centre-back alongside Gary Caldwell, denied Pavel Pogrebnyak with a perfectly-timed diving challenge before Wigan had scored.

"That concentration and responsibility in the box was very pleasing," Martinez said.

"Our attacking composure and quality was again good. We have been showing that this season. But we never had that clinical way of defending and keeping a clean sheet."

Victory was Wigan's second on the bounce after they booked their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 4-1 win at Huddersfield last weekend.

Those victories have come after the club went to Tenerife for some warm-weather training that Martinez believes could be a turning point.

"After the warm-weather training I think we have re-focused," he said.

"The first game back was against Huddersfield in the FA Cup. You have seen a large amount of players representing the club in both games.

"You can see our competitive edge, a focus and a real responsibility in the performance.

"It is a matter of keeping a winning feeling and keeping those standards.

"This was the last game in February and for us to be involved in two competitions is a good position to be in.

"We have to concentrate on winning our trophy in the league which is staying in this division, and every game is vital."

Reading boss Brian McDermott stuck by his players following a defeat that could damage their survival bid.

Expectations around the Madejski Stadium had been high after the Royals' recent run while the lure of moving out of the bottom three with victory loomed large.

In the end, the home fans who remained until the final whistle were left booing their players off the pitch.

"It was a bad day, but it doesn't change my philosophy on what I am trying to do," McDermott said.

"It doesn't change my belief on what the players have done. What they have done in the last three years for this football club has been incredible.

"To get to where they are now. We have 11 games to go now."

McDermott said the club would not appeal Pogrebnyak's straight red card on 55 minutes, when the striker recklessly lunged in on Figueroa.

"He mis-timed the tackle and caught him. The ref has to read it as either a yellow or a red. He's decided it is a red," he said.

"In this day and age something like that would be difficult to appeal."

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