"No moles here, Gaffer, only rugby divots..."
Going into today’s game, much was made of Everton’s seven game unbeaten run. In the (somewhat subdued) build up, I will admit I was drawn into the depths of the doom and gloom brigade – after soaking up a massive blow in losing to Blackburn midweek, surely Latics would be too punch drunk to even put one foot in front of the other, especially after drawing with lowly Notts County just last Saturday.
Well, at least someone wanted Latics to win today: dare I say it, the Man Upstairs. By which I mean the wizard that resides in the sky and loves to play with the emotions of billions of people – the bloke some people call the Football God.
It seemed much of the luck that had deserted us in late December returned in abundance as The Toffees somehow managed to go a whole 84 minutes without scoring, despite the best efforts of the likes of Saha, Cahill, Fellaini (you know, the dude with the sweet ‘fro, maaan) and the moles that live beneath the DW surface. I dunno how they got there, they must have moved in when the undersoil heating broke down earlier this month… actually, I think we’ve just found our prime culprit.
Even the officials seemed to be on Latics’ side as, midway through the second half, the ball was bundled over Stojkovic’s goal line only for the linesman stood in front of the East Stand to give us a reprieve – offside, or a foul, or something.
But this game was played in the 2009/10 Premier League season, and as such it was a case of the usual promising football resulting in just a few tame shots right at the keeper. I will admit, though, that they were much more numerous than midweek as the awesome team everyone had built Everton up to be seemed not have turned up. Granted, they played some good football and could, on another day, been a couple up and out of sight by the second half. It wasn’t to be, though, as even penalty appeals were being turned down by referee Lee Probert, who was on his game and wasn’t about to be fooled.
Who the heck was marking Tim Cahill? Mr. Mysterio?
It really could have been 2-2 at half time, if it weren’t for some slightly dodgy finishing from both teams. Oh, and a decent save from Vladimir Stojkovic, who recovered from a shaky start to have a not-half-bad game. I just wish he could have kept a clean sheet.
Chances fell for Rodallega and Scotland, who looked to be really troubling the Everton backline as once again Latics fans were left wondering how on earth it was still 0-0 at half time.
The second stanza started much the same, with both sides having good efforts on goal within three minutes of the restart; first Baines drew a solid save from Stojkovic, then Scharner punted a shot right at Tim Howard in the Everton goal within a minute.
End-to-end stuff, then, as both sides traded attacks until the (inevitable) killer blow on 84 from Everton’s Tim Cahill. You’d have thought Wigan would have learned their lesson after conceding from a corner on Wednesday night, but once again a set-piece was Latics’ downfall. It was in fact a mirror image of the goal that grabbed the points for Blackburn, and left us with little to no time to react.
There were another six minutes to play, but again it felt like just two or three, even with four minutes of stoppage time. The only time Wigan even got close in this period was in the dying seconds as Charles N’Zogbia powered a shot against the Everton crossbar from just outside the penalty area. Which I’ll actually admit was pretty close, but no stogie.
As soon as Martinez brought Scotland off, things dropped dead almost instantly, and Wigan had little to no chance of breaching the Everton backline. Martinez seemed to favour a route one style for much of this game, and I have to say it was rather successful: aside from not actually putting away his chances (which is not exactly a huge surprise), Scotland was winning almost everything that came his way and laying the ball off for Rodallega and N’Zogbia quite sensibly and comfortably.
Had he found his calling? Well, we didn’t have much time to find out as for some inexplicable reason Martinez decided to shake things up. Why change a winning formula? Was Scotland tired or something? In short, I would have persisted with the same tactic, as his replacement Scott Sinclair did… well, nothing, but he hadn’t the time.
Still, an overall performance that probably should have merited a draw went unrewarded as, within the space of about ten minutes, it went from Latics’ day to Everton’s. So much to praise — good performances all over the park from the likes of Bramble, Caldwell and N’Zogbia — yet at the same time so much to rue: on another occasion, it could have been 2-1 Wigan. As it stood, the afternoon capped a miserable week for a Wigan side who just failed to put the ball away when it mattered.
Were Wigan foiled by moles? Well, not really, I just thought it sounded good in the title. At least we know who to blame when we’re freezing our proverbials off against Bolton on a Wednesday night, though.