IN a season that has seen Middlesbrough endure several bumps in the road, the only safe prediction that manager Tony Pulis will make is that there are likely to be more between now and May 5.
His fifth-placed Boro side are in one of their better phases following successive wins over Blackburn Rovers and QPR, and will take a travelling support of over 3,500 to Lancashire today.
Should Boro triumph they will secure a third successive league victory for the first time since August and while that fact does not suggest that they are a firm promotion contender, one other statistic is far more heartening.
The Teesside club have yet to lose back-to-back Championship games this season and it is the sort of resolve that will come in handy during a run-in that will represent a test of nerve.
Pulis said: “There are a quarter of the games to go, 13 games. The road will still be bumpy and we will have good and bad times along the way.
“What you have got to do and what we have done all season, and will hopefully maintain it, is that if we have a bumpy patch we seem to get out of it and push on.
“That is what we have to be ready for again and you cannot think it is just going to be smooth all the time.
“You have got to stay level and focused and pointed in the same direction as a group and hopefully we will be able to do that.”
Pulis’s words are wise ones and similarly the last thing that the sage Welshman will be caught doing is treating today’s struggling opponents lightly.
Wigan may be just above the relegation places and with work to do to secure their divisional status, but home victories over the likes of West Brom, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers have periodically suggested that the sight of packed away ends can sit well with them.
Pulis added: “We have got to make sure we put a team out who has a go and gives everything. There are so many conundrums that decide a game of football.
“It is not just whether you have got better players; it is whether your players turn up and have a go and maybe you have the breaks and are organised – and whether the other team are just off it.
“Hopefully all those things are in our favour.
“But unless you work hard and show teams the respect they deserve there are no easy games in this league.”