OK, let’s get this out of the way before we go any further. For backing Harry the Viking instead of Roberto Goldback in yesterday’s Grand National, I am a disgrace to the club and shall spend the rest of the week perched on the naughty step next to that pile of dirty laundry and Dad’s slippers to be taken upstairs.
I urge you to forgive these traitorous actions and read the rest of this post. Pretty please? I will slip you a free ticket to Tuesday’s Party Like It’s 1999 Joseph’s Goal charity bash. Actually no, I can’t afford to give those things away for they are like gold dust at this point. No, really – they have been reduced to yellowish microparticles squished between my library card and old person’s rail pass (please don’t ask why I have one at my age) in my wallet.
That pesky Villa, eh? If they weren’t half as good we might have worked ourselves into a position of relative safety by now. Nevertheless, Latics tucked into their Sunday lunch (I dunno, raw eggs or something I guess) full in the knowledge that a win would not only lift them back out of the relegation zone but possibly open up an Aston Villa-sized cushion to 18th place. Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to count on the performance other teams but it’s fun to play devil’s advocate, isn’t it?
Enough about them, let’s talk about us. And QPR. At Loftus Road this afternoon. *Takes deep breath*
The hosts emerged chirpier, dangerman Loic Remy hitting the outside of the post from 14 yards. Though Callum McManaman had earlier tested keeper Julio Cesar, Rangers were causing more problems with their vastly populated frontline. Their progress was to be stultified, however, by a somewhat unsavoury 21st minute incident that would drastically alter the game’s complexion.
As Jordi Gomez went to chest down a Shaun Maloney throw-in, Bobby Zamora wildly mistimed his tackle and, in scenes reminiscent of that Street Fighter video game, delivered a swift karate kick to the Spaniard’s head. Though Gomez would receive short shrift from the home faithful for the remainder of the game, there was simply no doubt that a straight red card was anything but the correct decision.
A rattled QPR battled through to half time, but not before the odd iffy moment as Gomez, McManaman and McCarthy all tried their luck. Julio Cesar produced two solid saves to preserve his clean sheet during this period, however, and the hosts could take a valuable fifteen minutes to recuperate following such a body blow.
One man advantage = bad news?
The half time break came at a terrible time for Latics. Overall, they never found their feet during the whole of the second 45 and you wouldn’t have known they had the extra man. The hosts defended very well and, though they couldn’t do a lot in the final third, prevented Wigan from manufacturing another shot on target until the final fifteen minutes.
As the game meandered along, the visitors’ effectiveness subsided, even after Franco Di Santo was introduced. Frustration visibly grew, and Wigan’s midfield might as well have been between the arches of Wembley Stadium already. One was beginning to think the sending off was working against an increasingly clueless Latics.
To settle a few nerves, there soon came a second wind for Wigan. Though James McCarthur squandered a wonderful opportunity to break the deadlock on 77 minutes, that much-vaunted Wigan time looked to be drawing closer. Or was it?
A Wigan free kick on the edge of the Rangers area rebounded perfectly for the home side to break, and in the blink of an eye they were crossing the halfway line and heading for Joel Robles’ penalty area. Sure enough, Remy let rip with a screamer from just outside the box, with magnificent results – the Latics keeper, who’d previously had little to do, could do nought but watch as the ball sailed into his goal. Superb stuff, but not for Wigan.
Spurred into action, the visitors chucked everybody but Robles into opposition territory in search of an unlikely point. With less than five minutes to play and time quickly running out, it looked to be a lost cause as absolutely nothing Wigan had tried in the second half resulted in any success. But there was to be salvation in the form of Shaun Maloney.
Stephane Mbia bundled Maloney to the ground right on the edge of his own area, gifting the visitors one last opportunity to rescue at least something.
Now, I do not necessarily believe in fate or fortune, but I think this current Latics team is blessed with that rare quality – luck. Not that Maloney’s well-placed last-gasp free kick was anything but pure skill, but at that point I thought the game could have continued for another 90 minutes and Wigan wouldn’t have scored. It was just one of those matches.
As the ball floated past Julio Cesar and smacked the back of the onion bag with a satisfying ripple, you couldn’t help but believe Wigan had escaped from the corner shop with a pilfered Yorkie bar scot-free. It’s a small reward, but certainly not to be taken for granted in what’s shaping up to be another open survival battle.
It had been a tough game, and once again Wigan were far from their best. As Phil Dowd signalled full-time (incidentally with Wigan powering forward and six men in the opposition half), however, you felt it was a point gained in the circumstances. Naturally, it is disappointing that the Wigan machine didn’t function correctly, and you would have targeted a win prior to kick-off. But I tell you what, I shall gladly take that point.
Hey, not everything can go completely in your favour. That unbeaten record has been maintained, and a win, no matter how scrappy, at Wembley next week can only boost morale. And we’re due to turn up for a game sooner of later, eh?