Just when we really needed it, how’s about that for a Latics ‘dream week’? I don’t recall back-to-back wins under Martinez since the last time Halley’s Comet was visible from Earth to the naked eye.
Actually, it was January, but it seems like far, far longer – after all, we’ve conceded a whole raft of goals and more than a modicum of frustration since.
By contrast, it seems like only yesterday that Latics were taking an absolute spanking at the hands of today’s opponents.
You’ve got the mainstream media to thank for that, because if it were up to me I’d have subjected anyone who ever even so much as mentioned WhiteHartLaneGate to the pleasure of having a large horse leave a nice pressie on their front lawn. I’m not talking about an XBOX with FIFA 10 here, and you know it (though certain PES fans may strongly disagree).
Oh how the boot was on the other foot this afternoon. Tottenham showed none of the attacking threat of that fateful evening in November, the likes of Lennon and Defoe a mere shadow of their former selves. Add to the mix an on-song goalkeeper full of confidence off the back of a clean sheet in a three-nil victory on Tuesday (and yet to concede a competitive goal this season), some resolute Latics defence and you have one large upset with which the press can have a field day. At least until Man United pasted West Ham later in the afternoon.
Ali Al-Habsi was certainly the stand out performer of the afternoon, pulling off a number of highly important saves to keep Latics’ clean sheet intact for the duration of the game. It was somewhat lucky considering Younes Kaboul”s wonderful 86th minute opportunity, perhaps the only occasion when the Omani looked more than a little suspect as he rushed off his line.
Thankfully, his header sailed past the post and Latics fans breathed a collective sigh of relief. This chance would have put Spurs back on level terms after Rodallega’s 79th minute cross-keeper strike. Carlo Cudicini got a big hand to the ball but could not prevent it from crossing the line for Wigan’s first goal of the 2010 campaign.
Hugo’s chance was the third of three magnificent opportunities for the Latics, all of which came within sixty seconds of each other in a spell of football from out of nowhere. First, Alcaraz somehow managed to balloon the ball over the bar from all of four yards when it looked certain he would score.
Undeterred, Wigan came again, with Jordi Gomez volleying Rodders’ cross a foot over the crossbar. The third time worked a charm, though, and the increasingly vociferous Latics fans had even more to shout about as Little Wigan pinched the lead.
Previous to this trio of chances, Latics threatened to threaten but could not muster any others of note apart from Steve Gohouri’s strike that rattled the crossbar within the first twenty minutes.
Half time came and went without Tottenham breaking the deadlock, Roman Pavlyuchenko failing even to make as much impact as his predecessor, one Peter Crouch, who was withdrawn at half time. Jermain Defoe showed moments of promise, drawing a couple of saves from the Latics keeper, but was largely subdued by the likes of Gohouri and Boyce.
Wigan came more and more into it as time passed, and though their strike was somewhat unpredicted, they deserved their lead and eventual win. By the 80th minute, Spurs had become visibly deflated. They got a second wind with a few minutes left on the clock but did not make their chance, the aforementioned Kaboul header, count for anything more than ‘what could have been’.
From then onwards, Latics predictably played the time-wasting game, winning a series of corners and throw ins to frustrate the hosts and waste valuable minutes, ultimately seeing out the final stages without too much alarm.
And that was that, really. Latics performed a smash-and-grab to get their Premier League season off the mark and pull themselves out of the relegation zone. I know we’re only three games in, but my goodness was this an important victory, not only for Latics but Martinez also. I believe Whelan has every faith in his man, but do the fans? After today, maybe some of the more aggressive anti-Roberto clan will be silenced, or at least subdued for a short while.