Leon Balogun was at the heart of defence for Wigan Athletic as the Latics continued their steady rise away from the relegation places with a goalless stalemate with second-bottom Luton Town at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
While their three-game winning run came to a disappointing end against opposition they were expected to beat, Wigan kept a fourth clean sheet on the bounce and their newfound parsimony can be traced to the January deadline day acquisition of centre-back Balogun from Brighton.
The Super Eagles defender has demonstrably strengthened a defence noted for shipping goals for fun and has been instrumental in a tightening at the rear for Paul Cook’s team.
His six appearances have yielded four clean sheets as the Latics who looked dead and buried before Balogun turned up at the DW Stadium now look likely to beat the drop.
They currently sit in 37th place with 41 points – two above the bottom three and Balogun’s contributions to their good fortune was acknowledged with a nomination for the club’s player of the month award for February.
Balogun’s impressive performances have also not gone unnoticed at national team level as Gernot Rohr handed the Germany-born defender a recall for the 2021 AFCON qualifiers against Sierra Leone later this month on the strength of his showings for Wigan.
While Wigan has found good fortune with Balogun, the same cannot be said of the man who took his place in the national team: Semi Ajayi.
The high-scoring defender saw his West Brom side lose their lead at the top of the Championship after they were held to a goalless draw at Swansea on Saturday.
The draw meant the Baggies have now dropped four points in their last two games to relinquish top spot to Leeds United.
Ironically, it was Balogun’s Wigan that was responsible for three of the Baggies dropped points when they shocked the erstwhile leaders 1-0 at the Hawthorns last weekend.
West Brom are, however, still odds on for automatic promotion to the Premier League as their 70 point haul is six more than third-placed Fulham with nine games remaining. The top two teams qualify directly to the top tier while the teams placed 4th to 6th enter into a play-off.