Protip: do not use fairground sideshows as a team selection tool. (c)Jeremy Thompson
In these times of squad-threatening injuries, you’re thankful of Owen Coyle. No, really – before you all tune out, just imagine the pickle we would find ourselves choking on had he not made all those signings in the summer.
Sorry, you know full well I said that to grab your attention. But the much-discussed tiredness factor plops another Plinko chip into the ‘squad rotation is cool’ pile, and as the manager quote/innuendo textbook says, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”. Rosler, you win this round. And the next one, hopefully. Win the one after that and you can have my car keys.
Though Uwe’s starting lineup is ever-changing, the idea remains the same: hit ‘em quick and hard, and try not to do anything too dumb. Not only a design for living, but also getting back into the richest league in the world. Ooh, never mind stars in your eyes, I have pound signs for retinas whenever anyone so much as mentions the Prem. Cha-chinnng!
The lively opening 30 minutes were indeed worthy of a Premier League contest, with both teams fashioning attempts of varying quality. Wigan’s were arguably more threatening, but as the home side you’d probably expect that from them. As any pundit worth his post-show Irn Bru will tell you, home advantage certainly *is* an advantage.
The returning James McClean was central to the hosts’ attacking play as they mercilessly sliced through the Watford defence on three distinct occasions. For the first, he was mere millimetres from poking Jean Beausejour’s incisive cross into the gaping North Stand net. Shades of Gazza at Euro ’96, and I’m not talking about dentists’ chairs.
Tsk. Did you not hear what I just said? I’m *not* talking about dentists’ chairs…
As a rain-battered tin roof brought the cacophony to an almost deafening crescendo, Manuel Almunia’s Rooney-esque slide denied the Irishman just 4 minutes later. It was a good job this DW pitch had been moistened, otherwise considerable knee bandaging would have been required. Heh, they’d have been calling him ‘Mummy’ Almunia after that.
Ahem. But there was always the danger of Wigan being Guganwhacked on the counter, and so it proved to be. Not a shock per se, but there were more than a few mumblings and grumblings when Al Habsi could not offer a strong enough hand to prevent Lewis McGugan’s accurate right footed ‘lacer disturbing the back of his netting. Gasp indeed – I had five chocolate buttons on Al Habsi scoring first.
You can tell I’ve been watching those YouTube compilations again.
NIck Powell still leads the Uncle Joe’s goalscorer charts. (c)Illarterate/WM Santus
Pleasingly, the expected fightback was again instantaneous. Somewhat predictably from Wigan’s left, solo virtuoso Beausejour broke free and guided an effort goalwards. Almunia could not gather at the first attempt, however, and the ball rolled very sloooowly over his goal line for the leveller. In my head I could hear a zombified club commentator groaning, “Wiigaan Laatics, theeeey’ve donne iiit aaagaaaain!” Or was that the stomach of the bloke standing next to me? Certainly, he sped off to the concourse for nourishment soon after.
That’s not all. When Rosler’s Latics score one, they usually get two, and a strong, controlling start to the second half reaped great reward. Any number of men in the Watford area could have claimed the Uncle Joe’s goal bonus, but Martyn Waghorn was the lucky contestant to volley home from 10 yards. Had his strike been any sweeter, we’d be sat numb-bottomed in Gazza’s Euro ’96 chair. Again.
Watford trudged through substitution country without causing Al Habsi to even flinch, though he might have wished for an umbrella. I admit it would have been amusing to see him perform Singin’ in the Rain, but Wigan’s football was entertaining enough on its own. After all, the ball-steppin’ Nick Powell showboat had arrived – had he been taking lessons from Cristiano Ronaldo?
A pivotal moment came when Beausejour lookalike Ikechi Anya willed a strike wide of Al Habsi’s right hand post with fewer than ten minutes to play. It was the Hornets’ best effort of the half thus far – and, as it transpired, their last. Wigan weren’t about to risk a repeat of Tuesday, and granted the corner flag a rare audience for five minutes of time added on.
Should we be keeping an eye on the Premier League yet? It might be a tad presumptuous to scout potential opposition at this early stage, but on the basis of this afternoon’s results, there are a few teams Wigan would happily have for lunch. By which I mean they’d literally devour them, expelling wind from various orifices immediately afterwards.
Marconi plays the Mamba, listen to the radio