Somehow, Latics are still in this season’s FA Cup, despite the best efforts of one of the most pedestrian first half Latics sides to grace the pitch this season, certainly in 2010.
I dunno about Notts County 2-2 Wigan Athletic, you might say Tim Gudgeon should have read Antonio Amaya 2-2 Wigan, because from a Latics point of view his, shall we say, slightly iffy performance all but gifted County with two goals. Well, maybe I do the Nottinghamshire side a disservice: those goals still needed sticking away, and the second in particular — a cracking free kick even David Beckham would have been proud of from Ben Davies — left Stojkovic with no chance.
In fact, Notts County punched well above their weight today, albeit against a first-half Latics side that weren’t even at the races. But a below average turn out from the Spanish centre back left fans wondering whether they would ever see him in a Wigan shirt again. Sure, there was undeniably a collective failure to repel the spirited efforts of a club in the midsts of financial insecurity — which this tie, of course, will go some way to easing — but a man with an ulterior motive would single out Amaya for toilet duties first thing on Monday morning.
Or, at least another lengthy spell in the reserves. Not that I would make the guy a scapegoat for any of Latics’ failings, with Gohouri and Caldwell waiting in the wings, you get the feeling old Antonio’s days as a first team player could well be numbered, at least for this season.
What of the aforementioned début boy, then? Well, his attacking prowess could come in handy for Martinez’s grand plan, but the necessity for Wigan to push forward in the second half this afternoon meant he was either putting it about in the opposition half or stuck at the back marking the whippet-like (!) Lee Hughes. I reckon we should see how he fares in the Premier League before passing judgement.
Whether it was lack of match practice leading to tired legs on behalf of the hosts or just a whopping great kick up the backside from Bob, Latics played more like the Premier League team from the 40 minute mark onwards. James McCarthy managed to find the outside half of Kasper Schmeichel’s left hand post from the edge of the 6-yard box, forcing County into a ‘hoof it clear’ mentality they never really escaped from for the remainder of the game.
Doesn’t it just show the steps we’ve made under Martinez when it comes to criticising the other team for their route one tactics? Not to devalue it as a method, but I feel we’ve had our fair share of that under Steve Bruce so please forgive me for being sick of it.
2-0 down at the break, Roberto had to somehow drag Latics from the depths of despair, for at that time they were crashing out of the competition to a side more than sixty places below them in the league ladder. Whatever he did or said, it seemed to work: Wigan re-emerged a changed side, looking positive and generally exhibiting some (gasp!) Premier League quality. Look no further than a Jason Scotland goal for evidence of this. Yep, you heard me right – Jason Scotland actually scored, and it was a decent one-two with Rodallega that brought the chance.
I think the world is about to explode or something. This earth shattering point is so important it needs its own paragraph – Jason Scotland scored for Wigan.
(Voice in distance, eminating from somewhere roundabout the DW Stadium’s East Stand: About bloody time!)
Latics would continue in much the same vein, pushing hard for that second goal. County sat back, allowing the visiting side to play their natural passing game, which eventually led to a Ben Watson equaliser with seven minutes left on the clock. This set up an end-to-end, grandstand finish which saw both sides go close as they pressed for the win, but the papers will have to wait a little longer to see if Little Wigan will be knocked out by Big Notts County. I can just see it in the Daily Mail: Little County hammer Tiny Wigan.
Now, I missed the first 35 minutes of the game due to technical difficulties with the wonderful Latics Player, but from some retrospective comments from Graham Lovett, it sounded as though Wigan were soundly outplayed in that period. From what I witnessed (or heard, or whatever), some sort of miraculous change must have taken place, because they weren’t exactly performing as badly as the 2-0 scoreline might have suggested.
In the end it was probably a fair reflection of the match, as although Latics did more than enough to actually win the tie on the day, Notts County certainly had their fair share of chances. This is where Wigan’s second debutant of the afternoon came into his own: keeper Vladimir Stojkovic did all that was asked of him and his second half performance impressed this Latics fan at the very least. In my opinion, he couldn’t do much to stop the two goals he conceded, but expertly handled everything else that was thrown at him… but then, you could say he ought to against a League Two side.
That would be cruel, though, because we all know there are no easy ties in the FA Cup… oh wait, isn’t that the Premier League? Well, mainstream media, I’m borrowing your quote for another competition altogether.
A replay back in Wigan then, and I’ll eat my hat if there are less than 6,000 at the DW for that tie, even though it’ll be a Tuesday or Wednesday night. I’ll bet you now, though, the media will have a field day taking pot shots at Little Wigan with their paltry attendances, as you can bet ticket uptake won’t come near to Premier League standards.
Still, we ought to roll ’em over back here in Lancashire. Well, you have to take a positive attitude towards these games, eh? It might come as some consolation to you that it wasn’t exactly a first choice line-up that conceded those two goals, and you can’t deny it’s been another learning experience for Martinez and his growing Latics squad.