“I told you we should have taken out home insurance.”
The FA Cup Final is in just seven days, yet it felt a lifetime away as I nervously crossed yet another date off my calendar. Despite the prospect of silverware, there was no dancing in the streets quite yet, as Wigan Athletic had unfinished business to attend to. Nope, I ain’t talkin’ ’bout the 1986 Oscar-nominated film of the same name, I’m talkin’ bout our relegation (talking ’bout our reee-le-gation!)… scrap.
It’s strange how these match reports become more and more like those on the BBC Sport website as the tension racks up just a notch, forcing me to scramble for vaguely humorous references to lighten the mood. Oh wait, now I come to think of it I’ve been doing that since 2009. Like one does with the whole of the Daily Mail, just read on and forget I ever wrote this blasted paragraph.
You know the situation, but for the benefit of those reading this as a stand-alone article on your iPad 43.5 in 2025, I shall provide a bit of background info. Latics needed to win. That enough for ya, George Jetson?
Ooh look, a new section thingy!
2012/11/10 - Wigan 1-2 West Brom – Reality Check
2012/03/18 – Wigan 1-1 West Brom – All Just Bricks in the Wall
2011/12/10 – West Brom 1-2 Wigan – Mo and Go Steal the Show
2011/02/02 – West Brom 2-2 Wigan – Matt’s Entertainment
2010/11/13 – Wigan 1-0 West Brom – Victor-y at all costs
The pressure of the situation looked to be getting to Latics, who began stodgily and narrowly avoided self-destruction when Lukaku misfired his shot on 10 minutes. The visitors’ defence continued to look a might unsettled as West Brom probed the opposition penalty area with a series of mid-range efforts that Wigan did well to charge down.
As the hosts gradually began to take control of the game, Wigan were starved of possession and rarely troubled Ben Foster – Kone did draw the Baggies keeper into a save, but it was probably going wide.
When the West Brom goal did come, it was telegraphed. Markus Rosenberg beat three Latics defenders and a static Robles to the ball just outside the Spaniard’s area before delivering the low cross for Shane Long to convert. A poor goal to concede, especially given the circumstances.
But Wigan were not disheartened – if anything, this aberration served to revitalise their attacking efforts. Shaun Maloney put a free kick just wide of a helpless Foster’s right hand post, and Arouna Kone was about to restore parity with a powerful headed effort to complement Jean Beausejour’s well-directed ball from the left wing. Now that’s more like it.
A break to suck some oranges
JWAW Man of the Match: Shaun Maloney
Unfortunately, Wigan’s joy was short-lived. Beausejour turned villain as he conceded a soft free kick in dangerous territory, allowing Dorrans to plant one on McAuley’s head for West Brom’s second. That dotted line to Prem safety suddenly looked awfully far in the distance once again.
Just like they had in the first half, however, Latics mustered the spirit of 2011/12 to hit back within ten minutes. Shaun Maloney sent in another top-notch cross which met the diving head of supersub James McArthur for a cracking goal truly made in Scotland. With half an hour yet to play, the survival push was suddenly alive and kicking once more.
Wigan’s lineup went through a number of changes in the second half, and when Beausejour picked up a hamstring injury, Roger Espinoza (possibly the away side’s sole remaining fit player) joined Golobart, Scharner and Boyce at the back. Though threadbare, for the time being it was doing the business.
Could Wigan find a third? Well, they had to at least try – a point would be no good. Thankfully, the travelling contingent’s prayers were to be answered in the form of Callum McManaman, who gleefully mopped up Maloney’s umpteenth dangerous cross to put the visitors ten minutes away from three vital points. Phew.
Naturally, any remaining game time was excruciating. West Brom hacked and slashed at the wobbly Latics wall, and so very nearly found a weakness in the brickwork. Unlike last week, however, it was Wigan’s turn to be slightly fortunate as Wigan’s goalmouth saw strike after strike repelled. I don’t know about you, but when Joel Robles punched Dorrans’ long-range strike behind for a corner, my fingernails were already bitten to non-existence.
After one final butt-clenching moment, the final whistle was blown with Wigan 3-2 to the good. It had been a tough encounter, but somehow the three points were secure.
One down, two to go?
Ben Watson: Lucky charm?
This job is far from done, but the initial phase of a four-point plan is successfully completed. Martinez will have to find some magical rubbing cream to get Beausejour back to fitness in time for Tuesday, otherwise Adrian Lopez may be forced out of relative obscurity to warm the bench again.
As for Caldwell? I hope we haven’t seen the last of him, but his season is possibly over. I certainly do not think he shall feature against Swansea, but stranger things have happened. Hey, Ben Watson returned today, so it isn’t all doom and gloom on the injury front.
Aside from the obvious, congratulations must also go to Callum McManaman for his second goal in as many league games. In fact, praise is in order for the whole Latics side who battled adversity to keep themselves in the fight for Premier League survival. Exciting, isn’t it? I’ll see you on Wednesday to review part 2 of the saga.
Hawthorns image courtesy Tony Hisgett @ Flickr (CC2.0)