Wigan 2-2 Aston Villa: Not goodbye, just au revoir?

The burden of wealth

Crushed by the burden of wealth: JWAW’s poor attempt at political commentary

I really wasn’t sure what to feel today. On one hand it is sad to think the DW Stadium will not be hosting top flight football next year, on the other there was the sheer elation of seeing the FA Cup paraded around the pitch as if it were the Marsden Cup or something. Surreal indeed.

After the festivities come those inevitable salad days, but I think we’d better just enjoy this four-course steak dinner while it lasts. You shall hear no more negative comments from myself in this post, because today was a day for celebration. The result was secondary to reminiscing over eight glorious years for our little club, but it’s certainly worth recounting the final pages in this particular volume of the Wigan Athletic story.

There was one small upside to this seemingly dead rubber. Save for the cup matches, I can’t remember many occasions this season where I could sit and enjoy a game without the worry that one small error could spell ultimate disaster. With Wigan’s fate sealed on Tuesday, I could at least relax in the knowledge that whatever happened today would have little impact on the first game of the 2013-14 campaign. Heck, who knows how many of today’s first team (and indeed coaching staff) will take to the very same playing field in mid-August for a campaign of European football? In some ways, it’s rather exciting.

Match report

DW Stadium

The first half followed much the same formula we have seen for the past month or so, namely Latics looking fantastic on the break but more than a bit suspect at the back. Roman Golobart replaced Antolin Alcaraz in the starting XI, but it was Paul Scharner that looked more uncertain in the game’s opening exchanges.

Aston Villa settled down quicker and hit the lead on 5 minutes through Darren Bent. The aforementioned Austrian loanee was caught flat footed as the England international provided a satisfying finish off the inside half of Al Habsi’s right hand post. Wigan going 1-0 behind was kind of inevitable though, wasn’t it?

Undeterred, the hosts set about cancelling out that deficit. Arouna Kone had a wonderful chance to do so within ten minutes but hesitated slightly before allowing Ron Vlaar to get the block in.

Wigan were now looking infinitely more likely, however, and soon had the equaliser they sought. Roger Espinoza had acres of space and plenty of time to consider his cross, which turned out to be a bit of a corker, but not as good as the headed finish. Emmerson Boyce, who snaffled two goals in Wigan’s final league fixture last season, brought a smile to fans’ faces with a killer header past Brad Guzan.

The home side increasingly dominated possession as the half grew older, though Villa weren’t without the odd opportunity. Watson and Espinoza gave away free kicks in dangerous territory, but thankfully neither effort would cause a problem for the recalled Al Habsi.

On balance, Latics just about deserved the lead they took into the half time break. Their second goal came in scrappy fashion as Ben Watson’s initial strike goalwards rebounded back off Guzan and over the line via Nathan Baker – but I didn’t see any Wiganers complaining.

(You Are My) Sunshine

Roman Golobart

Roman Golobart was granted an invaluable 90 Premier League minutes

As the sun came out for the start of the second half, Wigan began to play some of the fantastic football that won them the 2012-13 FA Cup. Flooding forward, they expertly passed their way to two half chances as Ben Watson and James McCarthy came close to increasing their team’s lead.

Emmerson Boyce was within inches of doubling his tally for the day and opening up a cushion as Wigan looked to take control of this contest. They were to be pegged back shortly after, however, when Ron Vlaar sent a controlled volley past Al Habsi from inside the penalty area. Not only was it a great finish, but it served to reinvigorate the visitors somewhat.

As the match (and indeed the season) looked to be dying down, Wigan produced one more moment of magic that could have sealed three points on the afternoon. Following another trademark passing move, James McCarthur so very nearly converted a magnificent cross with an equally brilliant finish from 18 yards, but the ball cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and away from Arouna Kone.

It would have been a great way to round off the campaign, but the result today mattered very little. In fact the only reason I gave the match so much attention is because it was a thrilling contest that, had it been pivotal to the survival/relegation race, would have gone down as something of a classic. I have no doubt that someone would have scraped a winner if that were the case.

Who needs the Premier League anyway?

Wigan Athletic party bus

That’s not rust, it’s, erm… decals!

Personally, I am glad this season is well and truly over. It’s been as great as ever, but I just want to celebrate the cup win and forget the pain of relegation as soon as possible.

The fun and games continue on Monday afternoon with Wigan’s official open top bus parade (oh yeah, it’s happening!) culminating in a massive party in Market Square. It sends a shiver down my spine to think of it – having missed Wembley, I will definitely be attending this.

What will happen with Roberto Martinez? Has Albert Crusat really emerged from obscurity? And is Arouna Kone still wearing the FA Cup lid as a hat? We will know the answer to some, all or none of these questions by the time I see you in Wigan town centre tomorrow. And after that, I shall see you in Europe next season. Hurrah!

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