If you’ve ever watched the London Marathon on television, you’ll have noticed how competitors always save some energy for the final 200 metre sprint. During the 26 miles up to that point, they help each other along the way by taking the lead for stretches, sharing laborious legwork.
The Championship run-in is much the same: earn yourself a place in the play-offs and pull that extra firepower from your trouser pocket to win the sprint. A maniacal grin consumes your face and close allies suddenly become mortal enemies as the finishing tape draws near… and then you realise you’re at a ribbon cutting for the grand opening of a supermarket. That’s the reason I’m banned from Tesco Robin Park until 2020, incidentally.
But you know it’s Wigan Time when the Latics branded baseball cap and shades are retrieved from the wardrobe, because the Benidorm Stand is finally living up to its name. Well, this afternoon saw the return of the equally Brit-centric Blackpool Stand for a spot of beach volleyball… or should that be tennis? Nah, it’s definitely volleyball.
I love it when a plan comes together
The early stages were dominated by a squabble over deckchairs – Jean Beausejour claimed he had ‘bagsied’ one first, while Tony McMahon believed otherwise. Club rep Andy D’Urso settled the issue by removing all chairs, which bred quite a few crumpled facial expressions, but thankfully returned attentions to football.
The Wigan Athletic A-Team pities the fool who underestimates Shaun Maloney. Latics’ very own plan-hatching Hannibal soon lay face-to-turf having been tripped by the still grumpy McMahon, leading to an almost instantaneous penalty award. It may have been cheap, but home fans were definitely cheerful… until Matt Gilks palmed away Waghorn’s spot-kick, that is. The sizeable Tangerine following exploded in unison.
Wigan’s invasion of the final third continued unabated, however, as a stormin’ McManaman hoodwinked marksman Andy Halliday before slotting just wide of Gilks’ right hand post. And in a separate incident, Waghorn was inches away from poking home Espinoza’s cross to wreak oh-so-tasty fizzy orange flavoured (careful now…) revenge.
But the survival-hungry visitors had the half’s final word. The Basham-Bishop combination almost proved deadly when Neal Bishop attempted a spectacular backheel past Al Habsi. But as he tumbled to the ground, so D’Urso’s half time toots loomed larger than a Carl Bradshaw calf-cruncher.
Hey, they’re not oranges, they’re tangerines!
Speaking of Football League challenges of old, the Lancastrian spirit began to permeate this crucial Championship contest. By which I mean a few people got their shins shorn and ankle socks torn, and this seemed to suit Blackpool quite well. Solid evidence for this can be found in the fact that they soon took the lead.
Isaiah Osbourne’s cross was five times tastier than the tackles, while Andy Keogh’s header had the sickly sweet flavour of sticky rock. The goal was well worked and richly earned, a breath of fresh seaside air in a match plagued by horrible finishing and anaemic efforts, and yet more chocolatey golden coins were to follow from the resurgent visitors.
Stephen Dobbie showed the hosts exactly how one conducts oneself in the penalty area – why, you hammer it home, of course! None o’ that fancy fallin’ over legs and poking shots at goalkeepers – there was survival at stake here, and it showed. Was it the need for points that brought about greater goalmouth focus then their opponents? Whatever the case, Wigan’s final sprint was off to a stumbling start.
Certainly, Latics’ collective attention was already turning to Tuesday night. The dangerous Shaun Maloney soon departed in a precautionary substitution, and with him went the last of the hosts’ challenge. But in truth, Wigan’s fight had, much like the fans heading for the early train, already departed. Will they be returning to the DW this season? Oooh, even the most optimistic of internet bloggers tend to worry in these situations!
Hey, surely Tuesday night will surely be easier – it’s not as if Birmingham are fighting for survival or anything, is it? Oh wait… well, Blackburn can’t make the play-offs now, can the- oh, wait…