Rosler’s bacon-saving strategy proves abundantly successful. (c)Scott Arneman
A common criticism levelled at Wigan Athletic in the post-Martinez era has been a perceived lack of ambition among staff and supporters. “Oh, we’ll be happy to scrape a top six spot. We’ll be content with lukewarm half time pies and half-eaten Krispy Kreme bagels for tea.”
Trust me, I am the last person that wants a series of 0-0 draws. There’s only so much you can write about Uwe Rosler falling flat on his posterior while collecting the ball, or that dream I had in which Latics won 7-0. (Incidentally, Oriol Riera scored the seventh, just in case you want to go back in time and put 20p on it.) While you have me on tape, I just want to say that I would much rather type nonsense about the game rather than Henry Blofeld-esque trainspotting accounts of supporters’ choice of half time sandwich filler.
However, it is time to fess up. I am not ashamed to admit that another 0-0 draw, while frustrating, would have been an acceptable outcome at Pride Park this afternoon. You see, if Wigan’s form were to be represented by a series of Ws, Ls and Ds, it would spell something like ‘ludlududuh’, and I struggle to pronounce ‘pronunciation’, let alone that.
But the situation had become so dire that I was beginning to view scoreless draws as exciting. It is even tempting to describe the opening 45 minutes of today’s contest as moderately engaging because, well… look, I’d better go into more detail.
Squirrelling away a Fortuné
Proceedings began very brightly indeed, as a fresh enthusiasm saw the opening ten minutes against Millwall stretched across the whole first half this afternoon – for both sides, in fact. Emyr Huws’ early saved effort typified this newfound positivity, while further chances for Fortune and McManaman were among the best Latics had created this calendar month. Only a Jack Butland boot fit for league leaders prevented the latter rolling linewards in glorious stop-motion.
As the half entered stoppage time, a stroke of fortune for the visitors; handball from Craig Bryson just inside his own area, a penalty. Oh, how very exciting! But don’t get your hopes up, as those specialist penalty takers were busy picking bench splinters from their calves or watching re-runs of their winning goal in the 2013 FA Cup Final. Seriously, I’m going to create a shortcode linking to that article one of these days.
Anyhow, considering Wigan’s recent form, it was no great surprise that modern day alchemist Tavernier could not convert his cash to goal-d. Although Butland stretched well to save at his right hand post, I am certain a passing squirrel would have prevented the ball crossing the line anyway.
Jack Butland’s goalmouth-dwelling pet squirrel, Terry.
This minutest of moral victories was to be obliterated by Derby’s next forward move mere microseconds from the half time whistle. Johnny Russell’s free kick was guided towards John Eustace, and… yep. Hahah, screw you, no score bore draw! Although my 7-0 bet was instantly voided, it was wonderful to be reminded what a goal looked like.
Better yet, the first Wigan success for more than 270 excruciating minutes of football was soon to follow. And you thought Christmas wasn’t for another eight weeks yet! James McClean, on for the injured McManaman, would have found it hard *not* to steer Espinoza’s deflected cross into Goalsville, even with those bothersome rodents running the touchline. But amazingly, score he did.
And if you thought that was amazing, wait for this one… Wigan scored again. It may sound like the usual shameless JWAW click bait, but hear me out – the visitors were now actually outplaying their top-of-the-table opposition. It’s true, I swear!
McCleaning up two months of mess. (c)Deutsche Fotothek
McClean’s second was a bit scrappy, perhaps even from the Owen Coyle instruction sheet – written on headed notepaper from a certain doughnut vendor, of course. It was, however, a measure of Wigan’s pressure that the ball was bundled home with outstretched foot, a release of eight weeks’ frustration in one magnificent moment. And besides, only players for top four team score truly great goals, so I’ll settle for the industrial ones.
What with the visitors’ recent dominance of possession, playing out the final ten minutes transpired to be somewhat simple. The old magnetic corner flag trick effectively filled time between Derby free kicks, the first of which – from Chris Martin – narrowly failed to curl inside the post. The second isn’t really worth mentioning since referee Robert Madley thought he saw someone sneeze inside the Wigan area, which was enough for him to award a relieving foul.
3,408 minutes of stoppage time successfully negotiated, belief in the power of the goal was finally restored. For the benefit of Statman, note the five yellow cards and an incredible 8 (EIGHT) shots on target (to be confirmed by a reputable source). And as for that 7-0, maybe I was dreaming of Bournemouth again?