The Tractor Boys arrive in Wigan
Now, I know what you shall think as you peruse Shoot Magazine‘s results section, chocolate biscuit in hand, and spot this afternoon’s scoreline: “A simple win for the FA Cup winners and Europa League contenders, and a second consecutive clean sheet to boot”. I know *I* would if I hadn’t seen it unfold with my own three mutant eyes at the Robin Park Pie Dome, but let me explain further.
*Waits for disinterested parties to leave the room.*
Regular readers (if they do indeed exist) know I’m not a believer in fate and fortune (though the same definitely cannot be said of Marc-Antoine), but when you have to count the number of times you’ve cleared the ball off the line on a second hand, one’s rationalism wavers. It can’t possibly be down to… superb defending, can it? Can it?!
The aforementioned Marc-Antoine Fortune could not attend today’s meeting as his bus broke down, so it was once again down to Callum McManaman and 19-year-old Nick Powell to adjust their tie, clear their throat and form a solid, corporate makeshift attack line. Ne’er you mind, many a contest has been won with goals from midfield, and indeed defence! Granted, I never thought that would happen today.
Ben Watson made that floating defensive midfielder slot his own. Mostly because nobody else wanted it.
Half time arrived with the visitors in the ascendancy, knocking on the door, bossing the midfield and any other similar cliché John Motson might grant you special permission to use. From the first minute, when Ipswich witnessed a killer header rebound off a defender and crash against the underside of the bar, the visitors were in command. In fact, as the game progressed, the casual observer would struggle to guess exactly which was the home side – only a thin layer of Uncle Joe’s wrappers crunching underfoot betrayed the precise geographical location.
Scott Carson was enduring his own admin overload, covering for moments of defensive absence that seemed to crop up all too often. Much like on Thursday, penalty box scrambles were commonplace and the big boot up-field (“when in doubt, boot it out” — Cloughie?) frequently provided welcome respite. With so much goalmouth action, however, you would expect the odd spare piece of paper to sneak through the photocopier.
Okay, I’m going to drop the office analogies, not because they are unfunny (which they blatantly are), but I can’t think of any more and cackmetaphors.com seems to be down at the moment.
But Carson was alert to any danger and produced two Premier League quality saves to preserve his clean sheet. Daryl Murphy’s 6-yard strike was surely destined for the South Stand goal, but an amazing short-range block from the ex-England international left a healthy Sunday afternoon Tractor Boys following aghast.
Oh wait, I found some more Ricky Gervais office jokes!
The Latics players, too, seemed stunned as the half time whistle blew, for at this time they were one goal ahead. Wait, what? It took a good three minutes for Wigan’s final representative to reach the changing rooms, jaw locked open with a drool waterfall ensuring the pitch did not require its half time sprinkling.
James McArthur sliced one just wide of the post on 80 minutes.
Yeah, apparently Ryan Shotton converted Nick Powell’s corner at the back post via Dean Gerken’s desperate outstretched hand. I seem to remember Callum McManaman winning the corner, so carve another notch into his bed/goal/lamp post. Brilliant, I guess.
Whether it was a case of Wigan becoming more confident or Ipswich becoming increasingly agitated, the hosts worked their way ‘back’ into the match with a series of outstanding opportunities of their own. It is true that the visitors suffered a touch of ZulteWaregem-itis, sending a series of shots high into the North Stand where numerous grimacing Ipswich fans groaned.
However, the home side definitely lifted their game to such an extent the statistics seemed somewhat even. They weren’t really, but for a team consisting of zero strikers (by now McManaman had limped off with an iffy leg) it wasn’t a bad return.
And then there’s the result – a mistake from Dean Gerken gifted Nick Powell a 90th minute opportunity to finish the job, and suffice to say he did not squander it. We shall not delve further to save Ipswich’s blushes, as they were the better team for much of the game and must have bright red foreheads from 90+ minutes of frustrated brow furrowing.
To close, let’s briefly revisit that luck/fate argument. If there really *is* such a thing as fortune –which there probably isn’t, but let’s play devil’s advocate– someone must have bribed a clairvoyant in Bruges earlier this week. Someone send me her address so I can write her a cheque now.