I see on the official Latics website that Paul Scharner has conceded we’re in a relegation dogfight. At the present moment, there’s no doubting that, matey boy – and some tactical decisions by Roberto during last night’s clash with Stoke reflected that.
I’m referring to one particular change, which took place in the sixtieth minute. With Wigan 1-0 up and the chance to go for the jugular beckoning, Jason Scotland — who I was thoroughly surprised to see in the Latics starting lineup, perhaps ever again after last Tuesday and the Notts County debacle — was brought off, to be replaced by not Moreno, Moses or even Sinclair, but Gomez.
An excellent opportunity to give one of the new guys some match time and continue utilising two front men, which so far had been functioning quite well for the Latics, was spurned in favour of a five-man midfield.
As a result, we looked a man short in the opposition penalty area, and dare I say it, we missed Jason Scotland in that second half. The remainder of the game was largely defensive stuff as Stoke pushed for, and eventually got, an equaliser. I guess we can count ourselves lucky we didn’t concede more, considering the pressure The Potters put us under in the last twenty minutes or so, and once again a point is a fair reflection of the game.
Though Gomez was heavily involved in the play, he seemed a bit superfluous to requirements, and more often than not simply wound everyone up with his relative ineffectiveness. Roberto eventually came to his senses and brought Moreno into the fray with fifteen minutes to play. I don’t know if the Gaffer quite has that confidence in playing the new guys since they’re relatively untested in the Premier League – I suppose we’re bedding them in slowly, if you like. I can understand this viewpoint because it generally takes time for foreign players such as our man Moreno, signed just last month in a last-minute transfer window deal, to settle into the Premier League ‘lifestyle’ (fast cars and infidelity?).
However, I believe Roberto played things too safe yesterday. It was the perfect opportunity to give one, perhaps both of the M&M partnership a start, with suitable backup on the bench in case it went a bit wobbly, and I’m looking at Jason Scotland as the prime candidate for replacement. As it happened, Scotland had another of those games where he looked busy, won a few balls and was a big presence at the front, not overly abhorrent, but not quite of the standard of Rodallega, N’Zogbia or (shock!) Scharner either.
In fact, Wigan performed well as a unit in the first half and probably deserved their one-goal lead. I doubt we’ll ever see Paul Scharner score a better goal in a Wigan shirt, his excellent long-range header beating Sorensen at his left hand post on 14 minutes. The goal sparked confidence and more opportunities, brought about by some good pressure play from the likes of Zoggers and McCarthy who, let me add, had another fine game.
As things wore on, though, Stoke came back into things and could have pinched one from the many set pieces they acquired in the ten minutes leading up to the half time break. The Wigan defence, decidedly dodgy from corners and free kicks in recent times, seemed to have learned their lesson and simply got rid as soon as they could. It was tense stuff, though, you felt an equaliser could come at any minute. It didn’t, thankfully, and a one-nil lead was the reward for a decent half of football.
I’m sad to say the second stanza didn’t quite live up to the first, with Wigan struggling to get as much pressure on the Stoke goal. That’s not to say there weren’t half-chances for both sides, but no real prolonged periods of domination for either. There was a feeling that Wigan could hold on for that vital win, but once the equaliser came — via Tugay at an otherwise vacant back post — there wasn’t really a second goal in the team on the pitch. The gamble had failed.
Give Martinez his due, he introduced another attacker in the guise of the aforementioned Bolivian big man – that’s Moreno, incidentally. There wasn’t much time for him to make any real impact, though he did show some promise and at least got one of the few shots on goal in the latter period.
In the end, Wigan hung on for a draw, to the chagrin of the Wigan public. Another chorus of boos at the final whistle seem to indicate our lot have become impatient with the lack of results in — yes, you guessed — those matches we really could, or perhaps should, have won.
Yes, we’re another point closer to survival, and though there are plenty of winnable games to come between now and May 9th (Burnley, Portsmouth, West Ham, Hull and two games against Bolton spring to mind), our current situation dictates we may have to pick up points against the likes of Villa, Tottenham, Liverpool or (gulp) Chelsea. Let’s hope things are settled by the time we visit Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season.
Speaking of games we should be winning, there’ll be more than just boos ringing round the DW Stadium should we lose against Bolton next Wednesday. Yes, remember the postponed fixture from the cold Monday night in December, the one that was supposed to be on the telly? Well, it’s been rescheduled for a week today, so clear a space in your already packed diary and get a ticket. I urge you once again to get down there and make yourselves heard, even if you have work/school/Jeremy Kyle the next morning.