Latics may be out of the UEFA Cup, but the opportunity to play abroad still exists in the form of the good ol’ FA Cup. If you don’t count Wales as ‘abroad’, consider this: why was I approached by a Passport Inspector when travelling through Wrexham last year? I’m still waiting for that nice chap to send it back to me through the post along with a refund for that mandatory on-the-spot £500 customs fee.
Before I draft out my sixth letter of complaint to ‘Wrecksim Pussport Inpectur Ltd.’, there is just time to see how Latics fared at the Cardiff City Stadium this afternoon. Due to lack of television interest in the FA Cup holders, you probably have no idea what happened, so I shall try not to spoil the result in this post. But wait, I already did so in the title! *Scrabbles to remove it before anyone notices*
One couldn’t fail to notice changes to the starting line-up, however. In light of Wednesday’s Website Editors’ Forum, this was to be expected, though Lee Nicholls might have been a tad disappointed to miss the cut. I base this mostly on Rob’s less-than-positive assessment of Ali Al Habsi, however, and I’m not sure Uwe Rosler listens to the PWU Podcast.
Wait, does *anyone* listen to that?
The tie began at a comfortable pace for the visitors, who almost fulfilled their promise when Ben Watson played James Perch through for a swift shooting opportunity after but 240 seconds of in-game time. Though the ball came within a Mini Cooper’s width of Marshall’s right hand post, a better chance was soon to follow for the industrious Latics.
A persistent Jordi Gomez reached the Cardiff goal line before carpetting a mudskipper across the 6-yard box for a waiting Chris McCann. From there, it was simply a case of guiding the bright pink round thing into the big rectangle, which was easy enough in this instance.
The hosts’ opening goal was much the same, with Latics paying a toll heavier than my Wrecksim customs fee for their failure to ‘put da boot in’. Al Habsi’s attempt to spot the ball through at least seven legs proved fruitless as Fraizer Campbell’s effort rolled into the net un-abetted.
This seemed to reignite Cardiff, who were more enterprising in what remained of a thrilling first half. They ought to have scored again, perhaps via a flying Campbell or the very edge of an edgy goalpost from debutant Juan Cala, but such success did not materialise. Al Habsi retrieved his steel horseshoe from the goalmouth and gave it a crafty polish.
However, it was Latics who led the way to the final whistle thanks to a couple of FA Cup heroes. Jordi Gomez tapped his free kick all of five feet for Watson to swerve his strike past a miniature game of British Bulldog in the Bluebirds’ penalty area. If it looked a bit of a mess, that’s probably because it was – but what a strike. Car one, Wig two.
The match reverted to its default mode of ‘Cardiff attack, Latics hit long’, but in this case, possession was nine tenths of the bore. Some ‘laid back’ goal kicks from Ali Al Habsi did nothing to cheer up the irritated south Wales hordes, who were starved of any attempts on goal as the game entered its final fifteen minutes.
Caulker tried to prise handcuffs from Welsh wrists with a rebellious header, while Craig Noone delivered what threatened to be a threatening free kick. It wasn’t, but Wilfried Zaha felt it was time to work Ali ‘Takeyertime’ Al Habsi’s frozen hands. A smart save only served to increase the hosts’ already heightened frustration.
Constructing the wall
Though the final ten minutes had been much more exciting, Latics’ deep defending paid dividends… just about. The visitors enjoyed rare possession as the contest –and substitute James McClean– tore through four minutes added on with not a hint of corner flaggery. Ali did test the seven second rule to its limits, however.
Full time. The Dragons of Cardiff Castle Keep slain, Wigan raised their swords in unison to toast their passage to yet another FA Cup Sixth Round. I *would* have a nosebleed right now, but my considerable conk is already drained of all fluid thanks to the dizzying heights of last season. Oh go on then, any excuse to show this picture again…