There was a distinctly pre-season feel about this game: maybe it was the empty South and East Stands or the slightly below Premier League standard opposition that betrayed the match’s warmup status. But it was a game worth paying attention to for a number of reasons, not least the small but significant fact it was Roberto Martinez’s home managerial début.
There was a vociferous, if not rapturous, reception for Bob in his appearance as part of the reunited Three Amigos as an emotional pre-match presentation involving Bob, Issy, Jesus and Uncle Dave was met with warm applause. It was worth the five pounds entrance fee alone, and many would have been forgiven for forgetting there was actually a game about to take place.
Latics got off to a roaring start, hitting the post early on and causing the St. Mirren defence some real problems in the first half. A couple of tasty challenges involving Lee Cattermole got the crowd warmed up, and on 25 minutes, Jason Koumas capped a decent personal pre-season with a free kick slotted nicely into the top corner of Paul Gallacher’s goal.
Koumas struck first for Latics
Just minutes later, though, a slip from Emmerson Boyce allowed Craig Dargo in on goal, and thanks to a shot that glanced off Titus Bramble’s leg and into the back of the net, The Saints were back on level terms. In truth, it was an almost comedic equaliser against the run of play and one they probably did not deserve, but all credit should go to the Scottish side who managed to make it to the half time break level.
This did not last for long, however, as Hugo Rodallega sliced another free kick into the St. Mirren goal just after the halfway mark. Not long after, a spectacular scissor kick from captain Mario Melchiot gave Wigan a two-goal cushion in athletic fashion from just inside the six yard box.
St. Mirren showed more attacking prowess as the second half progressed, and managed to draw a comfortable save from Chris Kirkland. But the Latics’ defence continued to look just a bit suspect, and it was not long before Tom Brighton was through one-on-one with the Wigan goalkeeper. It seemed easier to score, but Brighton could only manage to find the St. Mirren fans in the North Stand as the ball sailed harmlessly past Kirkland’s left post.
All in all, it was a day enjoyed by everyone, even the St. Mirren fans who delighted in proudly displaying their flags, and even engaged in a bit of banter with the Latics fans towards the end. They sang and cheered throughout the match, only stopping to give a great big boo to Jason Scotland as he was introduced into the attack. In truth, their side could have scored a couple more thanks to one or two big hiccups from the Latics defence, and on the whole gave a decent account of themselves.
In the end, however, Latics proved just a little bit too much for the SPL side. And I’m sure they would not begrudge Roberto his first home win, albeit in a non-competitive match.