Say what you like about good old St David, but his celebrations invariably bring us a glorious first day of summer. Well alright, it’s still quite cold. But the big, round Calor gas heater in the sky reminded me of the opening match of the 2004/5 season, when Latics played out a solid 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest at the JJB Stadium. Lee McCulloch finished in fantastic fashion after 38 minutes, but a certain internet blogger missed the goal as he was buying soft drinks in the South Stand concourse. Damn that baking hot sun’s dehydrating properties!
It’s curious how such things take pride of place on the shelves of your mind alongside that time you tossed a screwed up piece of printer paper the length of your living room into the bin. That’s one heck of an achievement once you account for wind speed and the dog leaping to catch it as if it were his favourite chocolate covered sweetmeat treat. Dumb mutt.
Flash forward almost ten years to this afternoon, when the sides met once again at the City Ground for a proper Championship punch-up of Prince Naseem proportions. I am, of course, exaggerating once again – Stuart Attwell would never stand for such physical football. And there we go! With those inevitable comments about the referee and climactic conditions out of the way, it’s time to talk football for once.
INSERT COIN 2 Player Game
That Latics completed the first half with their goal line unbreached is testament to some uncertain Forest finishing. You see, the visitors’ backline was edgier than the guitarist from U2 writing an article for a video games magazine with that wrestler bloke threatening to push him off a nearby cliff.
In fact, the opening 45 can be almost completely summarised in a single incident. The footrace for Leon Barnett’s woefully underhit backpass was always going to be won by Simon Cox, but a panicking Ali Al Habsi’s proverbial blushes were saved when the Irish international blindly swung at an adjacent blade of grass. Barnett tried not to make eye contact with Emmerson Boyce as the ball dribbled into some well-placed hoardings.
It was written, then, that Wigan should take an unlikely lead to the dressing room. In the highly possible event you’ve ever played pub skittles while watching Austin Powers, you’ll already have an accurate mental picture of this goal. The ball rebounded its way to Martyn Waghorn, who could sidefoot home from 10 yards via two, maybe even three limbs – you could even say… it was a forest of legs. But I will not.
SKILLSHOT! One Million Points
Parity was soon restored thanks to an equally scrappy goal within ten minutes of the game’s resumption. Jamie Paterson might rightly be credited with the equaliser, but it was a miserable Chris McCann that had the final touch to hoodwink a diving Al Habsi. Jeez, is it just me that fancies a game of pinball right now?
Like a little metal ball from an elasticated bumper, however, Latics came bouncing back armed with three extra large chainsaws to fell the Nottingham… Wood. Somewhat appropriately, it was another deflection that ultimately steered the ball home, and on this occasion it was Boyce wheeling away to claim the strike. Martyn Waghorn congratulated his team mate, but secretly wished his attempt had sailed into Karl Darlow’s goal without the aid of the captain’s head. Not to suggest he’s greedy or anything, but you know that strikers aren’t happy with mere assists.
JACKPOT Enter Initials
The resurgent James McArthur has evidently developed a highly welcome(?) taste for onion bag of late, and wasn’t about to leave Nottingham without satisfying his seemingly insatiable appetite for goals. This one wasn’t quite as good as his virtuoso solo at Brighton, but it was just as, if not more satisfying to see J-Mac’s crisp right foot effort clear Darlow from just outside the area.
Incredibly, the visitors weren’t done quite yet. Jordi ‘Wizard’ Gomez was soon to trigger a multi-ball frenzy and open an unassailable margin at the top of the leaderboard with a Bally good long-range curler. Yes, Wigan’s final score even surpassed that of AAA, the greatest pinball player that ever lived and supplier of infinite electric batteries.
As Statman will be quick to confirm, it isn’t what you have, but what you make of it. As it happens, Wigan had plenty to register another three (million) points and a free ball with their six shots on target – that’s more than enough for a side in such fine finishing form as Latics.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find Britain’s sole remaining games arcade to feed some pinball machines my leftover pound coins.