Is Roberto Martinez in training to be the next Alex Ferguson or what?
Seasoned football watchers will be well versed in the big Scot’s blame-shifting tactics; the referee wasn’t fit enough to keep up; the fourth official didn’t add enough/added too much stoppage time; the grass was too long; somebody stole our half time Jaffa Cakes.
The problem is, Manchester United are one of the best sides in the country and Fergie can get away with it because he’s just so awesome. When Roberto Martinez attempts it, it looks, well, foolish. Unfortunately it smacks of desperation, something we really do not need to be making obvious to our fellow relegation battlers who will no doubt see this as weakness.
Mind you, it’s not as if Bob could focus on his team’s performance which, for the most part, wasn’t quite there. Much like against Bolton and Notts County (to name but a couple, actually), Latics had their best spell of pressure for about 25-30 minutes in the second half, and this would have been fine if it resulted in a goal. Problem is, it didn’t.
The first half, by contrast, was more circumspect. Wigan more than competed, but then we did at White Hart Lane in November and we all know what happened after that. Sorry for bringing that up yet again, because even though I didn’t/haven’t seen the game on Sky Sports yet I’m guessing Andy Gray et al did that enough yesterday afternoon – and all week, come to think of it.
Spurs probably had the better of the early stages with Wigan just coming into things in the latter part of the first period. Rodallega drew a fine save from Gomes and N’Zogbia sent a shot just over the Tottenham bar, which I suppose was a creditable effort. No goal, though, and Tottenham had one of their own on the 30-minute mark when Jermain Defoe broke free of the Latics’ offside trap to tap in at the back post. To be fair to the Wigan defence, they kept their line well and on this occasion just couldn’t keep up with Defoe’s pace.
Speaking of Defoe, he was visibly riled up by a challenge from Gary Caldwell shortly after, and both men can perhaps count themselves lucky they didn’t find themselves in ref Alan Wiley’s notebook. In fact, it’s a wonder there weren’t a few more bookings as the tackles flew in left, right and centre (but mostly centre) from both sides. Not that things were unduly heated, just a might physical.
I do Wigan a disservice, actually. They gave it their all, and whether it was fallout from a tough contest on a heavy pitch against Bolton or just plain bad luck, it just didn’t happen. Again. Even with the earlier introduction of Victor Moses and the best efforts of Rodallega and co., all Latics could muster in the second half, efforts-on-target-wise, was a cross come shot fumbled by Gomes in the Spurs goal.
The hosts became increasingly desperate, pushing forward for an equaliser as time was running out. Unfortunately it only let in first Defoe, then Crouch — both expertly handled by Chris Kirkland — and finally Pavlyuchenko, who came from the bench to make it 2-0 with fifteen minutes to play, and the game was already over when he grabbed a second deep into injury time.
There was a somewhat unusual (and perhaps unwarranted) hype surrounding the afternoon that built an expectation for Latics to somehow emerge with a win. Whilst hope springs eternal, and with this Latics team there’s always the chance (there’s a Lawro-ism if ever I heard one), even the most hardened Ticsmen will concede that realistically, Wigan weren’t likely to salvage much, if anything, from the game.
This didn’t stop the floods of complaints from the ‘casual’ Liverpool and Man United fans on an afternoon out — yes, they were in the West Stand and I did hear them constantly asking what the Liverpool score was — that they were glad they don’t have a season ticket at the DW.
This is unfortunate, as days like this are obviously not going to help in the pursuit of building up a future supporter base. But come on, they’re used to watching a team with the cream of European talent and billions of pounds to buy the best of the best – we struggle to get even one decent player a season, and even then we flog them to Man United.
I feel we’re simply going through a bad patch at the moment, and that sooner or later we’re bound to find the back of the net again. There’s no doubt time is beginning to run short now, but at this stage we’re still in a better position than Hull, Wolves, Burnley and poor old Portsmouth. The onus is on them to do something, and as long as we stay out of the relegation zone for the remainder of the season, it’ll be mission accomplished.
It’s been a week to forget for the Latics, who’ll be glad of six days’ break before the next test: Birmingham away. Alex McLiesh’s side are virtually assured of staying in the Premier League now, but will complacency set in and allow Wigan to steal the points? We can only hope.
The final word in this report must go to James McCarthy, who gave an excellent impression of himself in the centre of midfield and hardly put a foot wrong all afternoon. For me, he was the Latics man of the match, and I can just see him becoming an Ireland/Scotland regular in years to come; he’s still a teenager, and has plenty of time to improve even further.
Just thought I’d finish on a success story there to lift the gloom of a six-game stretch without a win for the Latics. Things could always be worse – you could be a Portsmouth fan.