Well, I didn’t think I would ever see the day. Gary Caldwell had been out for so long I was beginning to think he’d got lost between the seats of his Vauxhall Nova, but nope – there he sat in the Loftus Road dugout without his wheelchair and crutches. Or a Bat-mask, disappointingly.
But it’s a good time for Cap’n ‘Crunch’ Cald to return. Leon Barnett, who currently occupies third spot in the increasingly prestigeous Uncle Joe’s Mint Goalscorer League, shall remain on the massage table for some time, or at least until his supply of medicinal mint balls runs out.
We haven’t quite reached the Vegas-esque pack-shufflin’ heights of 2013, but tonight’s Brand New! defensive formula of Crainey, Ramis, Perch and Rogne is another combination to tick off your I-Spy list. (To be found in the secret compartment underneath your matchday seat alongside a complimentary Latics-themed version of Travel Monopoly.)
The problem with such a strategy is that it can often prove a bit of a gamble. Remember that fateful afternoon in December 2012, henceforth known as Adrian Lopez Appreciation Day? No?
Well, I am very sorry for digging up heavily repressed memories.
Oh yeah, was I making a point or something? Yossi ‘Always Scores Against Wigan’ Benayoun definitely was when he pilfered his inevitable goal just after the quarter hour mark. I wouldn’t say it was a defensive disaster, but… yeah, we’ll move on. Best to get these things out of the way early, eh?
As I expected, Latics harassed ’til the Uwes came home. Unfortunately, as our old adversary Sir Rob of the Green is an avid reader of this blog, he also anticipated the very same thing. Not the tenuous farmyard pun, but the attacking thing… there again, he only had to read any of Wigan’s 50-word match summaries in Shoot Magazine to know what was coming.
To begin, Green denied Perch following some pleasant interplay between Jack Collison and Nick Powell on the right side of the penalty area. For his next trick, he thwarted Nick Powell with an even better stop diving to his right, followed by a smart smother from Crainey’s long throw. And for an encore, he delivered presents to billions of children worldwide in under 24 hours.
Oh sorry, got a bit carried away there. But Green was having something of a magical half, and the imaginary forcefield surrounding his goal –namely the goalposts– was soon to aid his efforts. Ramis was the poor unfortunate that, but for the width of crossbar, would have been sucking on a complimentary goal bonus mint ball or two.
Wigan’s turning Green
By now, the second half was already minutes and numerous Latics chances old. Though the hosts’ cries of ‘can I have me ball back?’ were relentless, all Wigan’s attempts to bundle the round white thing over flat white thing proved fruitless. As Derby County striker and part time Coldplay musician Chris Martin might have sang, where’s the bar, John? Oh wait, I am mistaken – the line is ‘nobody said it was easy’.
It seems the hyperfuelled Hoops had been munching on their Weetabix (or maybe some Hula Hoops?), and seized the ship’s controls for a path back to White City. Indeed, they would have been heading for a much-deserved early brunch had Morrison’s expert long-range free kick snuck under Al Habsi’s bar. Well played indeed, good sir, but it seems that invisible forcefield can work both ways. Unless the work experience lad forgets to charge up its recycled car battery, that is.
Wigan’s own power supply, on the other hand, was nigh on exhausted. After ten games unbeaten you might expect the jalopy to screech to a stuttering halt, but there was time for one more glorious opportunity. Or should I say, glorious Green save? Because his full-stretch, open-palmed parry had Maynard cursing his rotten luck well into the third minute of injury time.
A now-departed Benayoun, who had just picked up a second booking of the game, might have had the first word, but The Green Goblin shall have the last. For the time being, at least – one would expect many a blogger and podcaster to pick apart those goals that never where, but I am inclined to award Mr Green a hearty round of applause. I *would* have offered him my man of the match prize of one chocolate biscuit, but I got hungry and ate it at half time.
‘Til we meet again in the play-offs, Q-Men. (They’re like the X-Men but their age or identity is in doubt.)