Summer fun in the South Stand
Don’t you just love the British weather? In preparation for Wigan’s first Premier League match post-vernal equinox, I bought in three crates of ice cream to keep cool on the toasty warm East Stand. But instead of worrying how I might sneak them past the turnstile stewards, I was left with three solid blocks of totally unlickable frozen milk melded to the floor of my metal garden shed come Friday evening. Best laid plans, eh?
At least some of our international recruits have escaped Wigan’s March snow by reporting for international duty in such exotic, far flung corners of the globe as South America, Australia and Spain. Though these post-international domestic fixtures are infamously fruitless, if ever there was a week we’d prefer our men to be out of the country, it’s this one – the household heating bill for one person tallies in at £5.34 more than a seat on a bog standard budget airliner round-the-world flight.
Oh yes, the dreaded international hoodoo was still going strong as the scarf-and-gloves-clad players emerged from the West Stand tunnel at approximately 2:55pm. Huddles of spectators wiped icicles from their brows and put palm to palm, not necessarily to greet their heroes, but in an attempt to generate some collective warmth.
Could Latics defy the unseasonably inclement conditions and jet lag to break a second curse –the first being that wretched ‘Curse Of The DW’– in as many league games? Well, wait a sec while I power up the Calor gas heater and don my fingerless gloves, for I shall now tell you the tale of this afternoon’s game.
What happened next
There isn’t a lot to report from a relatively unspectacular first half, though I have to admit it was actually much milder than recent weather has dictated. So much so, in fact, that the slightly off-key chimes of a distant ice cream van could be heard drifting along the River Douglas… but enough about the blooming weather and my own budding dairy treats empire.
Insert ‘ice cream Kone’ joke here
Arouna Kone was lively but, starved of support, could only manage a couple of half-decent opportunities from range. His first flew just past Camp’s right hand post, while the second was charged down by Sebastien Bassong. There was a third half-chance, but the angle was so wide it would be unfair to apportion too much blame.
On-form James McCarthy so very nearly played the predatory Ivorian through with a visionary ball that would certainly have led to a goal, but since it was a yard pacey, Lee Camp could comfortably come to collect it. Elsewhere, although Jean Beausejour sent a couple of ripples through the Norwich paddling pool, the enterprising Latics could not power up the pedalo and find a route through.
At the other end of the field, Javier Garrido saw his a free kick blocked down by Kone, while Hoolahan and Kamara also had tame efforts that failed to trouble Joel Robles. In summary, it was an eminently forgettable 45 minutes of football with two teams far from their best, so we shall quickly move on.
Alright, the first half never happened…
I am going to stick my neck out and award James McCarthy the JWAW man of the match award.
As expected, the second half proved infinitely more stimulating, though it was the Canaries that began the chirpier (huh huh, I’ve been planning that one for two weeks). Yet for all their threat in the final third, no shots on target would transpire – in fact you’d be hard pushed to find a time Joel Robles was in possession of the ball.
The home side survived a particularly rocky period and emerged with renewed vigour for the final quarter of an hour. Jordi Gomez was shortly to squander a fantastic opportunity facilitated by Beausejour and the magnificent McCarthy, opting to take a touch when he may have been better advised to shoot first time. His strike was charged down, but there was soon reason for cheer.
The ball fell to Shaun Maloney, who was tripped just short of the half way line. Howard Webb played a sensible advantage, however, and Jordi Gomez was soon bearing down on the visitors’ penalty area. Looking up, he found (guess who?) Arouna Kone, whose strike was so powerful Lee Camp could scarcely lay a finger on it. Whether he should have kept it out is another matter altogether, but it mattered little – the hosts were a goal ahead with 80 minutes on the clock.
Antolin Alcaraz: a rock
Norwich naturally attempted to claw back the deficit, but an energised Wigan were now winning all the 50-50 balls and gleefully playing the ball amongst themselves. When it really mattered, the visitors’ attacking threat deserted them and that Latics victory was now all but inevitable.
Wigan time yet?
And so a very cagey contest came to a pleasingly sedate end. Underfoot conditions hadn’t exactly been conducive to passing, shooting or even playing a game of football, a fact borne out in a plethora of wildly misplaced strikes and defensive lethargy. Wigan were afraid of knocking the ball back to Robles for fear of the dreaded bobble, and it wouldn’t be erroneous to say Norwich struggled in a similar fashion from time to time.
These are all things that cannot be helped, however, and that glorious 1-0 scoreline is what matters the most. Latics may not have been at their very best, but a second straight home win tears apart the once-strong fabric of that pesky international hoodoo, hauling us out of the relegation places. How’s that for timing? Oh yes, I forgot – we’re into Wigan Time!
Ice cream image courtesy Ewan Munro (CC2.0)