The search for Hugo's lost contact lens continues apace
Watching this game from my usual spot in the West Stand, I was very much reminded of fixtures past at the DW this season.
More specifically, I’m referring to those games we ought to have won yet, for one reason or other, have only managed to draw or even lose. Yes, there have been occasions when the lads have followed through on expectation — West Ham and Sunderland spring to mind — and of course the times when we were expected to lose heavily yet came through with our heads held high. You know the ones I’m talking about.
However there was a feeling of dejection akin to losing against a Birmingham team we could so easily have beaten, the Bolton draw and, of course, our loss to Notts County in the FA Cup. At least for the first two you could say “ah well, the result could have been worse”.
Last night was more like that cup tie. Never have I seen Wigan dominate a team so much as we did against Pompey who, let’s face it, are now concentrating on the FA Cup final. I know I would if I were in their situation. Basically, it was Wigan against a team of Portsmouth reserves and fringe players who did the best they could in the given circumstances, thrust into the first team as they were. And you can bet they’ll get a few more games between now and the end of the season – let’s say it’s a good job that, of our relegation rivals, only Bolton (well, Wolves play them in a couple of weeks as well, but I reckon they’ll be safe now) have to play them again between now and 9th May.
This patchwork Pompey side set their stall out to defend and try and hit Wigan on the break every now and again. For the most part they played one up front, but whenever Wigan earned a set piece anywhere near the opposition area it was a case of 11 men behind the ball. Well, it seems they’ve done their homework in that respect – I guess it’s now becoming widespread knowledge that Wigan struggle against a team defending for their lives. Good on you, Avram.
By contrast, Wigan were at almost full strength with only Gary Caldwell absent from the heart of defence. Perhaps we missed his leadership more than we think, as although there were good periods of possession and pressure — and a lot of them, too — there wasn’t that finishing touch from the front men. I think a good old fashioned northern British talking to would have spurred our attack on to bigger and better things, but with no Caldwell to deliver a rousing half time team gee-up the likes of Rodallega and Scotland seemed to stray further and further from the mark.
In fact, in many respects the second half was worse in terms of shots on target. That, as they say, was the nub of the problem. If you don’t challenge the keeper, you ain’t gonna score, not past David James, a second team keeper or anyone. The longer this went on, the more you expected Martinez to change things around. Credit to the man because he did, of a fashion. The stroppy Paul Scharner — who’d earlier been involved in a half time spat with James McCarthy — was removed (to rapturous applause and cheers) with replacement Marcelo Moreno taking up his usual position as centre-forward alongside Rodallega and Scotland up by the sparsely populated North Stand.
Bar Victor Moses, this was Latics’ entire frontline on the pitch to do the business they were bought for. However, their failings in the shooting department were simply all too evident. Jason Scotland, who previous to this evening had been on top goalscoring form (yes, one goal counts as a ‘spree’ for Jase), got a couple on target in the first stanza but played more of a holding role in the second.
Scotland entered this game on a goalscoring 'spree' (1 goal in 20-odd games)
We’ll let him off, though, as we know all he’ll ever be is a Championship striker and besides, it isn’t his fault we don’t have enough Premiership quality attackers at the club. It isn’t his fault we have to play Paul Scharner in such a pivotal attack-minded role because the only replacement is another Championship player.
Which brings me on to Hugo. Like the rest of the team, he was frustrated all night and just couldn’t hit the blasted target. You got the feeling that if he could, Latics would have scraped a 1-0 and everything would have been fine and dandy. Let me tell you, it wasn’t fun watching the likes of Rodders and Scharner blast the ball over the crossbar again and again and again. Control the shot, dammit. Challenge the keeper.
Victor Moses did eventually enter stage right, but had just minutes to show what he could do. Which he didn’t, and really couldn’t in the short time he was given.
This was a chance for Latics to grab the chance of safety by the gonads and pull themselves head, shoulders and torso above the parapet. Instead, a point is all we could hardly muster against a flimsy Championship side, and probably all we deserved too. Well, it could have been worse: we could have somehow lost. I shudder to think what might have happened if that were the case – maybe full scale riots in the concourse and a flaming bag on the Gaffer’s doorstep. Which, of course, I wouldn’t condone.
There is some crumb of comfort in the fact Hull and Burnley continue to look as bad as each other and there’s always the possibility they could go the next four (or five) games without even equalling the points total Wigan have currently. I wouldn’t bank on it, though. Yep, as predicted, the Hull game will be the crucial one – three points there and in all likelihood that’ll be safety for Latics. A good job, too, because I don’t fancy us picking much up against Arsenal and Chelsea. A draw at West Ham would certainly be useful, but at this rate we’ll be relying on them not actually turning up for that to happen.
Next up, however, is a Sunday afternoon encounter with Arsenal at the Dee Dubya, which nobody expects us to win but a certain amount of damage limitation would be good to see. Five points is the gap to the relegation zone, plus a few goals cushion with regards to goal difference; if we are not careful, we could see that wiped out on Saturday and the last day of the season.
Hmph. If you want a job done well, it’s worth letting somebody else do it, eh? Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the title, Cuprinol isn’t medicine but a varnish-like substance applied to wood to preserve exposed surfaces. We need some finish, get it? Sigh. I need a better joke writer.