July 15, 2024

Steve Bruce and Roberto Martinez shake hands
Although the scoreline might have more than a hint of (as the mainstream rags would term) ‘what might have been’ about it, I prefer to look upon this game as another point accrued in the quest for Premier League survival.

Yes, if Wigan had taken more of their first half chances or had James McCarthy slotted past Craig Gordon when he fortuitously found himself though on goal midway through the second half, it could have been 2-0 and a similar outcome to Wolves or Burnley away: defend what you have like a miser for the remaining 30 minutes or so.

Diame’s cracking run through the opposition half and shot sliced across the Sunderland keeper into the top corner of the goal was a reflection of the good football and chances created by Wigan in the first half. The home crowd had begun to turn against their team, as seems to happen quite a lot at Britain’s very own Stadium of Light these days.

Enter Kenwyne Jones to save the day for The Black Cats, or at least bring some semblance of respectability to the scoreline: they had their eye on three important points against a Wigan side on the rebound after the disappointment of Tuesday night. Bruce’s side showed plenty of promise but, much like the visiting side, could not muster that finishing touch when it mattered.

One each then, and plenty of time for both sides to snaffle all the points in what could prove to be a relegation battle. Unfortunately for Latics, Sunderland simply wanted it more from hereon in, and though both sides had half-opportunities I felt the home team were the more likely.

It didn’t happen, though. The game became scrappy, not at all helped by a referee who seemed to be treating his team lists as a booking checklist akin to those I-Spy books that used to be popular way before my time. Sunderland hadn’t had a win in Gawd knows how long, and Latics hadn’t tasted victory on away soil since… well, Wolves last month. But it felt the game was at a stalemate as neither team knew how, or had the good fortune, to scramble a winner.

It wasn’t exactly a non-event, however. Some good spells for both teams could have seen either come away with the big prize (a signed copy of The Beano) but a draw, much like numerous other games this season, is the fair result.

A well-earned point today is no doubt welcome, though I really am not a fan of Bobby’s negative stoppage time tactics (in the seven minutes added on, no less) which saw Latics spurn potential opportunities in favour of taking the ball to the corner flag. If you’re winning, yes – whilst there’s still a game to win then come on! Show some willing.

As a Wigan fan, I’m concerned that we aren’t edging out more games we a) should or b) could perhaps and that’s why we find ourselves with just a two-point cushion to the drop zone at this stage. Thankfully for us, Wolves or Portsmouth don’t look like winning at the present time, and there are still at least six other teams that could still get dragged into the dogfight for ‘dem bones’, sorry, the relegation zone, before the season is out.

We could ease the tension, at least for a week or so, by beating Stoke at home on Tuesday – not exactly an unwinnable game but nonetheless a difficult one, especially with the abundance of nerves around the club at the present time. It is at home, though, where Latics will no doubt have an advantage, no matter how slender… given it isn’t absolutely freezing and everyone decides to stay in and watch Coronation Street instead. ‘Cos you know, every little helps.

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