I write this article wearing my exclusive Wigan Evening Post cut-out-and-keep Ben Watson mask. I’m not the only one to embrace this curious custom – of all the bizarre things to happen in Manchester City centre, locals had never cast eyes upon as strange a sight as 3,500 Ben Watsons of all shapes and sizes wandering from pub to pub. It seems certain sections of the Wigan Athletic support are intent on proving, once and for all, that there’s *more* than one Ben Watson.
Nonetheless, it would have been fun to see Dr Watson himself make a surprise appearance from the bench to take a crucial last-minute penalty. Heh, bookmakers would have offered better odds for his detached leg to hit the back of the net. Oh yeah, did I tell you he broke his leg?
Most pleasing, however, was the FA’s decision to continue with the pink ‘melon’ Cup ball after the so-called ‘cut off date’ of 1 March. And you foodies know what that means! This week, I believe I shall pick out a particularly appetising French fancy from my extensive library of Creative Commons media files provided by onlycookingphotos.com.
Less favourable was the FA Cup Semi Final draw, which took place at Wembley as the players emerged from the Maine Ro- er, Etihad tunnel. Sorry, I had flashbacks to Shaun Goater there. But this afternoon’s prize, a Wembley date with the Mighty Arsenal, was decided. It may have been termed a ‘bonus game’ by certain small time internet bloggers (cough), but Latics certainly felt it worth the effort.
What actually happened.
26 minutes played, and Marc-Antoine embarks upon one of his tussles with central defender Martín Demichelis, who continues the wrestling match into the penalty area. The Shawn Michaels lookalike pokes out a leg which Fortune gladly trips over, granting Jordi Gomez a free play at the arcade cabinet. Pantilimon guesses left, Gomez goes right and the Ben Watsons go downright crazy. The genuine Watson, distinguishable by his villainous Brylcreemed moustache, wraps another celebratory bandage around his cast.
This proved to be the only real goalmouth excitement of the half, partially thanks to some smart offside trap baiting courtesy the vast Premier League experience of Ivan Ramis and Emmerson Boyce. There was no chance of them ever being afraid of the big bad City, though that didn’t prevent the odd dodgy moment. Even with the ‘It Was Our Day’ plaque screwed securely to a nearby scaffold, this is Wigan we’re talking about here.
Chris ‘He’s Not A Defender’ McCann became the game’s first casualty in a high kick competition with Micah Richards. Leon ‘He *Is* A Defender’ Barnett would replace him, though City’s plight was soon to be reflected in a triple threat substitution that saw Silva, Dzeko and Milner come dancing down the tunnel to expensive WWF-esque intro tunes. Gulp!
But what caused such measures, which might even be described as ‘desperate’? Why, a second Latics goal, of course. The scorer was even less predictable than the momentary defensive lapse that allowed McManaman to find James Perch at the back post. One horribly mistimed defensive lunge later and Perchinho had doubled the Wigan tally.
Yes, no word of a lie – Latics led 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium. But there were 40+ minutes of football/booting the ball out of play/chronic corner flagging to survive yet.
Sure enough, a behoodied Manuel Pellegrini unleashed the tigers. The Premier League title challengers proceeded to orchestrate a potentially game-winning spell that had Latics perpetually scrambling, and even man of the match Emmerson Boyce seemed a step behind every City foray into opposition territory. 55 minutes and two Wigan goals into the game, The Real Slim City had finally appeared.
Edin Dzeko soon had Scott Carson flailing for the first time with a deft header that rebounded off the inside of the post. A better attempt was to follow from Samir Nasri, who provided a timely reminder of why two goals mightn’t have been enough for Latics with a ranged effort worthy of international competition. The keeper’s view restricted by a crowd of ten, the ball could do nothing but disturb the inside of his goal netting. Comeback King Carson snarled through his impressive moustache-beard combo.
When Latics regained their footing, however, the scoreboard *still* found in their favour. Some penalty area pinball quickly racked up points for Player 2, and the hosts’ final credit was almost wasted when the bonus ramp opened for Fortune. Instead of laying the ball off for McClean, however, he unleashed the World’s Worst Shot to threaten back row spectator and pigeon alike, the only blemish on his otherwise highly impressive record.
Step forward Emmerson Boyce. With Dzeko in possession feet from the goal line, he summoned magical FA Cup powers exclusive to the holders to redirect the Bosnian’s toe poke wide of Carson’s big white letterbox. Another pivotal moment survived, Latics took a huge step towards an unthinkable victory.
The five minutes of stoppage time were, in fact, five years long. A clumsy Espinoza conceded a 92nd minute free kick in possibly the worst place bar his own penalty area, but the resultant chip to the back post offered the already-booked Carson another chance to slow play to a zombified crawl. Somewhat fittingly, a monstrous roar erupted from the general direction of the Watsons (most others had took their leave) as Anthony Taylor mercifully called a halt to proceedings.
Pah, I bet the Muppet that said the FA Cup is ‘not for teams like Wigan‘ is digging a rather large pothole for himself right now. In fact, *you* know this to be true as you just read his error-strewn account of another FA Cup Quarter Final. No need to worry unduly, however, as he’ll dig his way out before Wembley. Actually, you can guarantee he’ll be mouthing off on that podcast sooner than you can recite the lyrics to that updated Starship song.