Having lost against Aston Villa, I would have thought a win in this game was pretty important considering the state of the table. Recognising this fact, Martinez ditched the old 4-5-1 in favour of more attacking formations he’s been experimenting with of late, Franco Di Santo retaining his central striker position with Rodallega and N’Zogbia joining the front line. Most of the time. Though it worked in the first half and for about fifteen minutes of the second, Wigan slowly but surely went on the defensive looking to keep what they had, namely a 2-1 lead, as the minutes ebbed away.
I don’t know if it was that Latics ran out of juice after their midweek FA Cup foray or if Martinez chose to stick rather than twist too early, but they could have been 3-1 ahead on more than one occasion and looking good for the crucial win. The first half was, while far from perfect, doing the job for the visitors as they went into the break a goal to the good after Ben Watson’s free kick added to Charles N’Zogbia’s deflected strike. Though both goals had a touch of fortune about them and probably wouldn’t have troubled a stronger defence, it goes to show that putting the ball in the right place pays dividends if you do it often enough. Again, this was something largely absent in the second half, though it was more a case of missing killer instinct combined with good attacking play by the hosts than anything else.
In the end, Wigan could count themselves lucky to come away with a draw, and as the latter stages approached, it certainly showed. West Brom hit the post twice and had countless opportunities to hit the target, doing so only a couple of times but scoring once. The only thing preventing it from being two from two was Ali Al Habsi, who pulled off another of those crucial saves just when it was needed. After Rodallega’s skied shot midway through the half it was all Baggies, Latics pushed so far towards their own goal line that their attacks became so limited as to be non-existent. N’Zogbia and Moses might as well not have been on the pitch as all eleven men looked to protect the fort.
When the hosts equalised on 80 minutes, Latics simply could not respond as by this point they’d reverted back to 4-5-1, perhaps even 5-4-1, though it looked more like 9-1-0. If all these numbers are confusing you, let’s just say we were struggling. Locked into a defensive formation, Wigan even had to resort to time wasting in a desperate attempt at salvaging a draw. Far from pretty football, this wasn’t good to watch at all.
The first half had been much more promising for Wigan, and in general was a ‘spectacle to behold’ (man I hate those Sky Sports commentators sometimes), at least for the neutral. N’Zogbia really troubled the Baggies backline and created his side’s first goal almost single-handedly, winning and scoring a free kick from the edge of the penalty area. Our second came via much the same route, Maynor Figueroa this time making the run that drew the foul and Ben Watson putting in a threatening free kick that found the net, missing everyone on its way.
It wasn’t all Wigan, though. Odemwingie put the hosts ahead on the break for the perfect start on 7 minutes, and there was the odd break for Caldwell, Gohouri and Boyce to deal with. This, combined with a much better second 45, could well have secured the win for West Brom.
Though Latics held on for the draw last night, you’re left wondering if it’s enough. With thirteen games left and about 18 points still needed for survival, this is one game we wanted three points from. The game against Blackburn is now a must-win, or else things will be getting desperate: at this rate we’re going to need some points from Liverpool, Man United or Man City, and I really can’t see that. Even with a win over Steve Kean’s men and a couple of draws against the aforementioned teams (a rather optimistic estimate), I think we’ll be cast adrift by this time next month, and it’s going to take a real turnaround for us to get out of such a scrape. In other words, it’s looking pretty gloomy. On the plus side, this Conor Sammon bloke would be a cracking Championship striker, eh? Maybe Martinez knows it.