Wigan is an unsettling place for 365 days of the Earth year, but it must be particularly disturbing to land in the town centre on this, of all our pre-designated 24-hour clusters. Forget that Doctor Who Christmas special, this moderately-sized town somewhere round the backside of Ince-in-Makerfield is the genuine extraterrestrial multicultural epicentre of the Northern Hemisphere.
Not since the Justice League’s Freaks and Geeks open day has any one locality played host to such a cornucopia of superheroes and semi-robotic beings… it can only be the Pooles restaurant on a Saturday evening!
No, that particular establishment closed down years ago. I am, of course, referring to the infamous Wigan cultural tradition of painting your face blue and repeating “I’m supposed to be a Smurf” ad nauseum to countless (potentially inebriated) passers-by. “Oh really? You look more like a character from James Cameron’s Avatar to me.” Grumble grumble, I spent all of fifteen seconds carefully selecting this outfit at Paul Daniels’ Magic Shop.
Irrelevance. On to the match, foo’
You might think I am trying to dodge this game on account of the ominously turgid 0-0 scoreline in the post title. While this might be true to a certain extent, mostly due to the fact I couldn’t write a decent match report even if I stole Motty’s notebook, this afternoon’s activities at a characteristically damp Robin Park are definitely worth mentioning. I mean, there were grown men dressed as Mr T, for goodness’ sake!
A bit like Superman (the real one, not the bloke with a cushion stuffed up his shirt), however, I would prefer to speed-read the poorly-researched online encyclopedia article of the first half. And no, you can’t use it in your academic dissertation.
Thomas Rogne’s challenging opening 20 came to an abrupt end when his leg finally gave way, signalling a welcome substitute appearance for Ryan Shotton. Leon Barnett took a great gulp of salty air when informed he was the new man to mark Nikola Zigic, otherwise known as the Jolly Green Giant by… nobody. Ahem.
Not much else of note was occurring, though. Al Habsi must have been watching some beach volleyball during his time on the sidelines as his digs and cuts were suitably polished. Karch Kiraly would be proud… or at least I think he would, because I pulled his name at random from a volleyball website and for all I know he could be my ice cream man.
Wigan’s closest attempt of the first 45 came when Callum McManaman narrowly failed to steer his effort around Darren Randolph close to the break. A smart save from the Irish international had the East Stand Santas re-adjusting their misaligned elasticated beards for the first time. (Only joking kids, they were genuine beards really!)
But greater excitement (really? Woooow.) was to come.
Was it co-incidence that Latics’ marked increase in tempo occurred immediately following the introduction of Jordi Gomez? Probably, but he and Jean Beausejour formed a simply irresistible Morecambe and Wise-esque partnership only baulked by effective crowding of the Brum area.
Now, I have wrestled with my conscience almost as much as the players did each other as to how I should ‘report’ this next incident. From my usual position in the East Stand, Jesse Lingard’s slightly reckless challenge on Jordi Gomez warranted a yellow card. One only wishes it were so simple, however – when WWF-style scuffles break out as a result of such tackles, it is difficult not to be caught up in the emotion. Referee Steve Martin succumbed and, after careful consultation with both his liner and the Wigan fans, gifted Lingard a slightly surprising (yet at the same time depressingly unsurprising) one-way trip to the DW tunnel. The perfect antidote to Boxing Day traffic – get sent off some thirty minutes before the post-match rush.
Leon Barnett was visibly relieved at Zigic’s subsequent withdrawal as part of a wider Birmingham restructure. In fact there was a noticeable relaxation period that took in much Wigan pressure as the weight of a whole striker was relocated to somewhere just inside the visiting penalty area. But goal-line pressure was minimal, with Perch and McArthur not only failing to hit the goalmouth but also one of those South Stand banana men for an extra ten points each.
Holt might have squeezed home a characteristically physical header at the back post, and Randolph expertly palmed clear a dangerous cross from the right, but full time arrived sooner than the train you aren’t waiting for.
Verdict: undetermined pending video evidence.
Was footballing justice served this afternoon? I’m waiting for the Football League Show to tell me conclusively, because I’m a dedicated follower of the mainstream media like that. I did notice they appropriated last week’s suitably cheesy JWAW headline for their own nefarious deeds, but I shall refrain from contacting my lawyer because I probably stole it myself. Also he’s sick of me calling him at 2am for confirmation of whether I should accept the iTunes terms and conditions without reading the ten pages of tedious run-on sentences.
Man of the Match: Minecraft robot man in WS8. He should have won the half-time fancy dress competition!
Moment of the Match: Beausejour being decked after running into a defender’s outstretched arm like out of a Laurel and Hardy sketch (94 minutes).