In many ways, the transfer window is like a train journey through a busy city centre. Once January is over, the doors are securely locked for safety and the next and final stop is End of Season Station. I’m not sure how this metaphor accounts for free agents, but let’s pretend they’re either stowaways or very brave individuals clinging to the outside of the first class carriage for dear life. On that basis, I wouldn’t want to be Markus Holgersson right now… but that’s enough speculation for this station.
Wigan’s performance this afternoon could also be compared to an ageing locomotive – obdurate, deliberate and ultimately functional, yet somehow ungainly. A fresh set of wheels, namely substitutes Fortune, Gomez and McEachran, were just enough to push the old dog to her final destination, but my goodness, were those Charlton-coloured leaves on the line the wrong kind.
Agent Marvin Sordell, who is in fact an on-loan Bolton Wanderers spy in disguise, cheerfully slotted away the game’s first goal before many had even cracked open their flask of medicinal hot Vimto. The reason it didn’t taste quite as good wasn’t necessarily this early setback but the horrifically large drops of rain diluting my beverage to a weak, salty sludge. Next time I’m bringing cartons.
Most retreated to the relative warmth of the concourse, while other sodden spectators had clambered to higher ground by the time Reza Ghoochanneijhad struck Al Habsi’s crossbar with an almost pixel-perfect effort. Unfortunately for the man with the surprisingly pronounceable name, it cannoned onto the goal line and was successfully escorted from the premises (i.e. the Wigan half) to a frustrated chorus of ‘come on, Latics’.
The fans weren’t the only ones retreating. The Addicks slowly raised the drawbridge and erected the barricades as Wigan took total charge of the possession pie, as you might expect the generally held stereotype to dictate. Callum McManaman repaid Ghoochanneijhad’s effort in kind, clattering Yohann ‘Le Chat’ Thuram-Ulien’s crossbar in the hosts’ best move of the half.
The wrong kind of balls
On the whole, however, it had been an unpleasant 45 minutes. One quick trip to the hand dryers repaired flood damaged clothing to some extent, but the heat generated by 14,000 celebrating home fans would have to finish the job. But just like that train in the opening paragraphs, it was a long time coming.
The home side set about building their already formidable shots statistic through Callum McManaman, whose speculative strike was bundled in by Maynard from close range. After consultation with the West Stand linesman, referee Michael Bull was convinced a Wigan player had been stood in an offside position. The correct conclusion? This is to be continued on the BBC’s Football League Show, methinks.
As time passed, The Addicks began to form a rugby league-style defensive line of at least six players, ensuring they each stood at least ten yards from the man in possession to avoid unnecessary offsides. As they (probably) teach you at football college, this is your bog standard away strategy for fast Football League results. Not to deride it, for it was yielding great success as attack upon Wigan attack broke down at the edge of the area like a steam train running on solar power. In the north west of England.
Those infamous Rosler substitutes were to have a profound effect, however. The frisky Fortune was full of delightful one-twos, while Jordi Gomez added a killer pass which had thus far been a glaring omission from the Wigan playbook. Hmm, evidently they were still using Owen Coyle’s by accident.
Finally, that almost inescapable Wigan goal arrived just in time to be relevant. Fortune prodded a delectable McEachran through ball beyond Thuram-Ulien as the sheer force of pressure paid glorious dividends. And with an ecstatic crowd now suitably dried, more was surely to come.
Predictably enough, the hosts were immediately back in the final third and winning a free kick in Gomez’s favourite area. Thuram Ulien’s machine-like grip suddenly malfunctioned as the superb Spaniard evaded his clutches on the blind side. That wall was of use to no-one. Two goals, three minutes; four added on, no problem whatsoever.
Some quite humorous ‘corner flagging’ by Fortune, McClean et al. closed out the afternoon, which finished where it had mostly resided – the Charlton half. Perhaps that Coyle playbook *did* conjure those Shortsman-esque late, late strikes? With this latest pointy sword added to the Rosler armoury, it is difficult to speculate what might baulk the Latics onslaught. Apart from a large shield, of course.