ALREADY written off by many as a game few purists will take pleasure from, tomorrow’s fixture at Wigan could see pressure ramped up on one or both of the managers involved.

While a section of Wanderers supporters cannot envisage Phil Parkinson continuing to lead their club – in the mid to long-term, at least – his opposite number, Paul Cook, is also coming under fire following Latics’ dire display in a 3-0 defeat at Blackburn in midweek.

That loss, their third in a row, stretched their winless run to seven, following four straight draws, and Wigan fans are calling for a fresh face at the helm.

The former Accrington, Chesterfield and Portsmouth boss steered Wigan to the League One title last season, as well as engineering wins against three top-flight teams in the FA Cup.

They were in the promotion mix in September but Latics go into tomorrow’s ‘six-pointer’ out of the relegation zone by the narrowest of margins.

Though seven points ahead of Wanderers, their goal difference of minus-19 keeps them ahead of third-bottom Rotherham by a single goal.

And following the game at Ewood Park Cook admitted their performance leaves the fans, and himself, feeling pained.

“Where do you start and finish with that?” he told reporters on Tuesday night. “I’m certainly not going to criticise my players, that’s not my style as a manager. “But I think it’s fair to say it’s probably the most disappointing night we’ve had.

“The disappointment and the pain must set in, and the reality is we are in a really deep struggle at the minute.

“Tonight’s certainly not a night for putting rallying cries out, I’m not a manager like that.

“The best way to respond to pain is make sure you take it in, and make sure you see a reaction.

“Sometimes I think it’s better for managers to not just tell supporters what they want to hear – I’m a supporter myself.

“If you don’t feel deep pain tonight, there’s something deeply wrong.

“Whatever I say tonight won’t make it right.”

While Cook’s troubles would no doubt resonate with Parkinson, the Whites’ boss will be desperate to inflict more pain with a victory at the DW Stadium.

Defeat for Bolton will see Wigan edge their way to a 10-point gap over their Lancashire rivals. And with Rotherham not tipped in many quarters to get anything from their hosting of leaders Norwich the bottom three could be, for the following fortnight, cast slightly adrift.

The two clubs played out a 1-1 draw in December, a tale of two penalties – Wigan’s given, controversially, and Wanderers’ claims for a late spot-kick waved away by referee Simon Hooper.

While an away point is never to be sniffed at, it would surely not be enough to ease the pressure on Bolton’s manager, whose time at the club is rarely dull, given the pay problems, transfer embargos and winding-up orders he has had to work under.

While criticism of Parkinson’s tactics, formations and team selections is unlikely to ease, even if they can pull off a victory down the road, at the very least he deserves enormous credit for his ability to inspire a selection of free transfers, loan recruits and fledgling stars through some of the stormiest waters ever traversed at the University of Bolton Stadium, and still be in with a shot at pulling off another escape.

Parkinson may well be invited to move on if and when the takeover of the club is completed – incoming owners will undoubtedly have their own views on the immediate future of their new purchase – but he will at least be able to hold his head high.

“When you look at when Neil Lennon was here what the club was able to spend and what they’ve been able to spend since, it’s Second Division in terms of transfer fees,” he said at a recent media gathering. “It’s not of a Championship club and it wouldn’t take much for someone to come in and build the structure of the club.

“My view on it is that it’s a great opportunity for someone and hopefully things will progress.

“I have tried to keep my credibility as a person and as a manager during my time here in what, as everybody knows, are very difficult circumstances and sometimes I feel like I’m stood out there taking the bullets but I’ll continue to keep my credibility.”