Forget about curates’ eggs, Wigan’s performance today was more like a Scotch egg: on the whole meaty, but with an all too apparent yellow centre. There was plenty of sausagey goodness to be found, but the whole thing was spoiled by the failings of Latics’ eggy underbelly: the defence. And man, does it leave a bad taste in the mouth.
On another day, maybe two goals would have been enough to grab all three points, but this wasn’t another day. Wigan were left to rue missed chances, as for all their smooth passing and marauding runs they only had one goal to show for their efforts. In fact, the backline had Mike Pollitt — who entered the fray early on thanks to another breakdown from Chris ‘Glass Back’ Kirkland — to thank for a magnificent save or two to deny Birmingham a goal in the first 45 minutes.
In truth, though, Wigan dominated the first half. So far this season, I don’t believe I’ve seen us look so comfortable and trouble a defence as much as we did prior to 3:47PM today – the notoriously dodgy centre backs held out quite well, and Wigan really could have put the match to bed by the interval.
Hugo Rodallega and Charles N’Zogbia ran riot, creating chances aplenty and really taking it to the opposition, who by and large had no answer. The latter’s controlled strike gave the home side a lead on 33 minutes, and it was certainly coming. The former had more than a few glorious chances to take us it 2-0 and make the scoreline a bit more reflective of first half possession and chances created.
But Birmingham came out of the break revitalised, and took the game by the scruff of the neck with a goal on 61 minutes from Larsson. In all truth, it really should have been cleared by a shaky Wigan defence, who began to slowly crumble from that point onwards. A large slice of luck was involved in the buildup to the goal, referee Lee Probert conjuring a freekick out of nowhere to come to Birmingham’s rescue.
It seemed to spark the visitors into life, and they would go on to double and triple their tally in the subsequent ten minute period, undoing all the good first half work by Latics’ forward line in one fell swoop. Perhaps Pollitt may have been slightly at fault for failing to deflect the third — a Larsson free kick — past his right post, but we’ll not dwell on that too much because Polly is lacking match practise and clearly did his best and kept Wigan at 1-0 on numerous occasions.
A second wind for the Latics saw a pleasant last-minute free kick by Gomez round off the day, but it was all too late for the home side. A pity, because if the game would have been decided based on quality of goals, I think Wigan would have just about shaded it.
That’s all I can remember right now. I seem to recall thinking Latics were lucky not to concede a penalty at some point in the first half, but Wigan were so dominant and the abject disappointment is so great you can forgive me for neglecting to mention that.
Today’s opponents were admittedly better in the attacking department than Sunderland, but still represented a side we should be looking to beat if we’re to stay in the division. Which I’m sure we will, if we sort out these horrible defensive discrepancies which reared their ugly head once again this afternoon.
And anyway, I suppose we all should have expected this result because we won last week. Don’t worry too much, expect things to be a bit brighter against Stoke.
A final quick word must go to Alex McLeish, who took time out to sign a few autographs down at the dugouts half an hour before the game. I believe that makes him the first to do so this season, so a big ‘cheers’ to Alex!