Cancel everything this instant – Wigan Athletic have already been presented with the FA Cup! Yes, I know it’s only a three-quarter replica to replace the real McCoy (McClean? McManaman? McArth…) next to those oversized whisky bottles in the DW’s pleasingly populated cabinet. But few if any other clubs can claim they have witnessed their chairman hoist Britain’s (second?) favourite trophy aloft this calendar year.
It seems such a shame that the full-size FA Cup has to be wheeled back to the fettler’s in March. Why can’t it return to the good parish of Wigan? A suitably enthused Latics first team immediately agreed that this must be the case, vowing to win back that nineteen inches of pleasure for their own personal enjoyment. From that moment on, Palace had little chance.
The least shocking of upsets
Ladies and gentlemen, behold the least shocking FA Cup ‘shock’ of all time! How is it surprising when the holders won, eh? I would suggest this is the first time in decades that this paradox has been resurrected, and we won’t hear of it again until Halley’s comet can be seen on a cloudy night on King Street with the lights overclocked to Singapore Grand Prix proportions. Or maybe further Latics ‘giant killings’ await us in the coming months?
But seriously, tickets for this FA Cup thing are better value than the £2 million Wigan gave, possibly all in pound coins, to Palace for Ben Watson in 2009. As priceless as a cup-winning stoppage time header might be, the ratio of penny-to-excitement at recent FA cup ties is, to quote that bloke, “unbelievable, Jeff”.
Truth be told, Sir Ben did not initially endear himself to many of the 9,500 hardy individuals braving some mildly moist northern conditions. A few misplaced passes might have had the Queen reaching for her iPhone to get his knighthood revoked, but she instead decided to pick up her afternoon tea when the Grandstand videprinter flashed up ‘Watson, 36’.
“…and what do *you* do?”
Though the game’s opening strike wasn’t necessarily against the run of play, the visitors had looked busy enough to warrant a goal of their very own. Serious Man of the Match contender Ali Al Habsi saw to it that the South Stand netting remained undisturbed. By ball, of course – the freezing wind already had it billowing like a very holey sail (Batman).
An unfortunate incident that rendered full back Jonathan Parr almost immobile was to follow, resulting in a lengthy delay and 8 minutes of first half stoppage time. Parr was taken to hospital for a more detailed assessment, but it seemed quite serious for a standard clash of bodies with Callum McManaman. One would hope the injury isn’t as bad as it seemed; do get well soon, Jonny.
The hosts began the second half in sprightly fashion with McManaman slippery as ever and McClean and Espinoza linking up to great effect.
It was the Eagles, however, that struck the game’s next major blow when Cheshireman Aaron Wilbraham bundled the ball into Al Habsi’s goal following another Scooby Doo-esque goalmouth scramble. Tony Pulis suddenly seemed slightly less angry, offering a real photo opportunity when the corners of his mouth betrayed a semblance of a smile.
But the former Stoke supremo was soon back to his old self, cursing his rotten, rotten luck before Mike Jones’ final three toots on his Premier League standard issue whistle.
Clay Eagle shooting
Once again, McClean was snaking his slithery way through the advanced Palace backline, and this time it was to end unfavourably for the unfortunate Eagles. And I’m not talking about the bloke that plays for Bolton. The Irishman finally claimed his first ‘real’ goal for the club, slicing an accurate strike beyond a leaden-footed Julian Speroni. A cursory glance at the linesman proved unnecessary – this one was going to count… unless those climactic conditions that escaped from the Addams Family’s back garden were to return. Thankfully, they did not.
Palace, however, wuz wobbed ov a weplay. Shirt-pulling is allegedly outlawed, at least in the English game, so Dwight Gayle was rightly cheesed off when his shirt was very nearly ripped from his torso. But that Jones did not point in the general direction of the penalty mud pie blob is probably for the best – I believe that Puncheon guy is still on penalty taking duty.
I do apologise for that moment of internet bandwagon jumping, and indeed for branding Pulis a grumpster in the mould of Jeremy Clarkson. However, I do *not* apologise for my positivity, for the FA Cup is very much alive in the minds of many a small-time internet blogger. I only hope Gary Lineker doesn’t utter the m-word to spoil it. Again.