A game in hand is worth eleven owls in the… Hillsborough? (c)Brett Weinstein
Football Association, you’ve just missed an opportunity more golden than an overpaid striker’s £500 Adibok boots. If you were small time internet bloggers, you would certainly have spied the chance of a quick laugh and scheduled this re-rescheduled contest for a Wednesday. See, Sheffield Wednesday on a Wednesday evening, because they’re named after a day of the week!
Owls fans will probably have hit their browser’s ‘back’ button by now, or possibly uttered something profane at the sight of yet another idiot thinking he’s the first to point that out. But with that obligatory observation out of the way, it’s time for the usual detailed statistical and tactical analysis of another pre-FA Cup jolly to South Yorkshire.
Nah, with an introduction like that, did you really expect any deviation from JWAW’s regular poor stand up routine? That’s right, get ready for such classics as the Chris Kirkland ‘Glass Back‘ bit, returning for an unexpected seventh season! Lucky for you he plays for Wednesday now.
Quick, cart out the tried and trusted weather chat!
At least the climactic conditions had improved from that rainy day in December… it was now snowing. Ahh, it wouldn’t be a Championship football match if it were played in 35 degrees with the blazing sun setting fire to discarded chip papers accidentally left on car bonnets. Unlike Saturday, however, the weather wasn’t an issue, so that’s the last you’ll hear of that. For now. Perhaps.
Agent Kirkland receives his reward: a new pair of trousers!
In a circumspect extended opening exchange, it was at least 25 minutes before either goalkeeper was tested. Atdhe Nuhiu’s thumb nail got stuck on the d-pad as he attempted to steer his FIFA-style shot towards either corner of Al Habsi’s goal, and the ever-alert Omani was alive to this slightly misdirected effort.
The hosts’ recent dominance was not necessarily representative of the game as a whole, however, which remained a typical keenly fought, open Championship contest. Thus it was not entirely against the run of play when Nicky Maynard complemented Martyn Waghorn’s assist with a well-taken bootlacer from the edge of the area to the bottom left corner. A real treat.
If Kirkland was relatively blameless for this first goal, then the same could not be said of Wigan’s second. It was the ex-Latic that carried Ben Watson’s free kick over his own touchline, conceding the corner. And it is he that will undoubtedly be blamed as one of Waghorn’s subsequent corners was bundled in from the shortest of short range by a delighted Nicky Maynard. Those who disagreed with Rosler’s latest rearranging of the forward line in the continued absence of Powell were suddenly very quiet indeed. Or, more likely, cheering loudly.
Half time oranges.
On the subject of attackers, Marc-Antoine Fortune was soon to replace a disgruntled James McClean, who could not atone for his ‘phantom goal’ at the Owlerton Regatta back in December. But three men up front? This was more reminiscent of FA Cup victories past. Ahh, nostalgia!
On the subject of goalkeepers, the home side were on the warpath, much to the chagrin of Ali. However, successive saves spoiled Wednesday’s comeback masterplan and kept the aggregate score at 3-0 after 120 minutes of football. That 11-game unbeaten streak was in greater danger than a half-eaten Cadbury’s Dairy Milk left temptingly atop the breadbin.
Nuhio and Watson exchanged opportunities before Chris Maguire’s tasty, Al Habsi-bothering effort signalled the final ten minutes. As if to respond almost immediately, Rosler withdrew Waghorn for Crainey in preparation for the expected onslaught. Rob Kiernan was soon to follow, but not before James Perch was booked for waiting for the substitution. Naughty timewaster!
But shortly after eight minutes of stoppage time were indicated by the fourth official’s fancy oversized LCD watch, the result was secured. Maynard did the ‘work’, but Fortune fulfilled the role of many a revered striker and cleaned up where Kirkland could not, following up for three goals and three points.
It’s finally over?
You can go home now, lads, the battle’s over.
And so the epic Sheffield Wednesday v Wigan Athletic saga ended some three or four months later than originally intended. Shoutouts must be directed to James McClean and Nicky Maynard for their respective efforts throughout both ‘legs’, but the JWAW man of the match –and golden meat and potato pie– goes to Ali Al Habsi for a post-Xmas selection box of sweet stops.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to check on the condition of the FA Cup winners’ parade bus. It’s about time for a-polishing…