After years and years of being the underdog in cup competitions, I still find it hard to adjust to the tag of ‘giant’. Mostly because it’s one of those media terms used, often erroneously, to glorify the Midweek Floodlit Trophy. In reality, Latics are as much giants as Nottingham Forest are ‘minnows’: in fact one could successfully argue the double European Champions are the bigger club – I certainly wouldn’t contest that statement.
Sky Sports, then, clearly respect Wigan’s higher league placing, even if they did select this game on the basis there could possibly (would probably?) be an upset. So, for one evening, all neutrals became Forest supporters because it’s much more fun to shout for the underdog. On the evidence of that, Sky wouldn’t have drawn much criticism for billing this broadcast ‘Everybody Hates Wigan‘.
Enough media-fuelled cynicism (for now), because there was a game of football to play here, remember? Agh, well I suppose I’d better talk about it – I did watch the whole thing on telly after all. Alright, get your ‘part time supporter’ jibes out of the way now – The Boss (no, not that one, or indeed that one) wasn’t about to tolerate me booking a Wednesday off for a ‘silly Carling Cup game’.
I’m joking of course, because my boss is cool. He knows it’s called the Capital One Cup now, and is fully aware of how we get so excited about such matches. He doesn’t understand the hype, but at the very least acknowledges the effect it can have on the die-hard footy fan.
As we all know deep down, the awful truth is that the League Cup is the league’s poorer cousin and a lot of managers just find it a pain in the proverbials. Roberto says he is a fan, but one suspects this is only because it gives his second team a taste of the action. Which, I guess, is free advertising for potential loan deals. Oh, and it’s good for competition. Indeed, this evening’s tie will have given him cause to briefly reconsider Saturday’s starting lineup… maybe.
Although Martinez did make numerous changes, it was a pretty strong Latics side that took to the pitch at kick off. Well, I did say that in the past and was made to eat my words, but you felt tonight could be different. Heck, we were due a good cup performance after the disappointments of last season.
A back three of Ramis, Alcaraz and Figueroa were made to work by a lively Forest in the first 15–20 minutes. Simon Gillett and Andy Reid had superb chances to snatch an early lead, while things were looking more than a little bit dodgy at the back. But when Latics got going, they seized control of the game in some style.
Wigan’s dominance began in the 25th minute as Mauro Boselli headed home from close range, converting Ronnie Stam’s sensational cross with aplomb. From then on it became increasingly hard for Forest’s defence to keep up with the pacey Beausejour, Crusat and Figueroa. The Honduran, who doesn’t exactly score average goals, would double Wigan’s lead less than ten minutes later with a powerful strike past Lee Camp’s left hand from outside the penalty area.
Jordi Gomez completed an outstanding first half for the visitors, clinically finishing off Crusat’s accurate through ball, and you can’t say it wasn’t coming. The surprising thing was the quality of the finishing, as each goal was polished off with class, which bodes well for the season to come.
It didn’t all go Wigan’s way, however. Early in the second half, Simon Cox smashed one past Al Habsi from all of 25 yards – the best of a cracking bunch of goals on the night. This sparked a Forest fightback which threatened to haul them back into the match. Al Habsi had much to do in the Wigan goal, even if he was never really tested, and the hosts wrested control of the possession stakes.
Though the Reds hadn’t made any more in-roads heading into the final fifteen minutes of the tie, they were handed a timely boost when Antolin Alcaraz earned himself a second yellow card. I’m not really sure what the first one was for but this one, awarded for a somewhat clumsy challenge, was a tad unlucky.
Perhaps a better quality referee might have had a final word with the Paraguayan, but I suppose it was the correct decision in the name of consistency. Geoff Eltrigham was the exact opposite of Anthony Taylor on Saturday, and took a harsh line on the phrase ‘non-contact sport’, penalising every slight touch on a player outside the penalty area.
Martinez pressed on with his planned substitutions, despite the departure of Alcaraz. Fraser Fyvie, Ryo Miyaichi and Callum McManaman were all given game time, and the latter two conspired to complete Wigan’s victory on 90 minutes. Miyaichi instigated the break before laying the ball off to McManaman, who skipped past his man before finishing with style.
A bittersweet evening, then. Would you swap a win for keeping Antolin Alcaraz for Stoke on Saturday? Well, it depends on your opinion of the League Cup and how confident you are in Maynor Figueroa at left back. The answer for me: quietly. Jean Beausejour could well be the beneficiary, but a couple of others may be knocking at the manager’s door with the ferocity of an irate bailiff verrrry soon.
City Ground image licensed under Creative Commons by Awuachumele at Wikipedia.