It really isn’t that far from the DW Stadium to the Reebok – if you were to stand atop the South Stand, you would probably see the Horwich Arches with your naked eyes. It was even suggested that you could walk the seven miles without stopping even for a quick pee. This challenge proved far too tempting for some to pass up, so, as the watery morning sun rose over ASDA Robin Park, hundreds gathered to march upon the noisy neighbours in the name of charity and pies.
There was another reason for this exodus, however. Some men had conveniently arranged to put boot to leather on the lush marshlands of urban Horwich, and I’m not talking about the Annual Bolton Sofa Kickers’ Convention. *That* was last week, and mighty good fun it was, too.
But this week it was football.
…well, some of the time, anyway. Please allow me to elaborate.
Considering my rather sore walking feet, the first 45 minutes didn’t seem too bad. The big screen’s half time highlights package only served to confirm my suspicions that a one goal deficit was indeed a decent return in the circumstances – the film cut out before a single Latics chance appeared. You can’t even attribute this to extreme (and perhaps expected) home bias, as I only recall the visitors accruing the princely total of one shot on target.
In retrospect, the first half was artificially sweetened by some colourful crowd banter. Exhibit A: Drunken butcherings of ‘Ali Habsi is a Blue, he hates Bolton’ remixed and tossed at head height right back across the heaving dancefloor by an imaginative band of home fans. Apparently he’s actually ‘a White’ and ‘hates Wigan’.
The cause of this creativity? Well, ‘Agent’ Al Habsi had just witnessed Lukas Jutkiewicz redirect Rob Hall’s free kick feet wide of his despairing left hand. Touché, Trotters.
I’m not being sarcastic, because that did actually make me laugh, and Bolton undoubtedly ruled the half. Oh, Latics had possession – big whoop! That counts for little more than mere Martinez bragging rights if you can’t do anything with it. Bonus points must go to the aforementioned Al Habsi for a couple of solid stops, but I’d prefer to erase all trace of that half from my mind.
Hit me again, dealer.
A (dodgy) casino table’s worth of deck changes failed to yield anything more than the odd gut-shot straight draw for the visitors. Callum McManaman endeavoured to waltz past defender after defender with a series of swift stepovers, but it was no use – some accomplished Championship defending was, for now at least, enough to stifle the slippery Scouser.
Worse, Bolton were pushing Ali Hehateswigan Al Habsi to his limits. Were it not for Oman’s Number One, the Reebok taxi rank would have been emptied by disgruntled Ticsmen by 4.15pm.
But to exit early would have been foolish, as the real excitement was yet to come. Having resisted the force of Niagara Falls (or at least the Hockery Brook), Rosler’s Latics™ arrived at the party with approximately ten minutes to play. The buffet had been exhausted, and someone was gonna pay.
86 minutes. Andre Moritz belts the North Stand’s digitised advertising hoardings so hard they glitch momentarily. Not a huge mistake in the grand scheme of things, but subscribers to the butterfly effect theory will pinpoint this as the moment Latics embarked upon an audacious burglary that stole them a surprise point – and they could have had more.
88 minutes. With Wigan midfielders and defenders now moonlighting as centre forwards, Waghorn finds himself battling it out on the left wing. He musters a cross –his side’s first half-decent ball into the area since, well, Tuesday– for supersub Nick Powell to unleash a net-busting effort that might have ripped Adam Bogdan’s arms from their sockets. Oh-hoh, welcome back, Nick! We never once doubted your talents…
McManaman was now thriving on the right wing. One more dash into the penalty area and bingo, out came a foolish defender’s right leg. Down went Macca and out came Darren Drysdale’s arm in highly extravagant fashion. Jordi, get those penalty taking boots from the oven!
Since Gomez’s technique has been sussed, however, all Bogdan had to do was wait and see which way the Spaniard would go. It wasn’t unsurprising to see him stretch to save with relative comfort, but perhaps a healthy chunk of Batman-style vigilante justice was served, as I reckon Macca was auditioning for a spot in that forthcoming deep sea diving expedition (i.e. the FA Cup Semi Final) anyway.
Nonetheless, it was time to beat a hasty retreat to Wigan before Bolton called the police to claim their stolen point back.