July 15, 2024

When you wake up, you will believe Wigan Athletic won the FA Cup in 2013...

When you wake up, you will believe Wigan Athletic won the FA Cup in 2013…

Well, thank goodness for that, eh? Normally we are grateful of an international break, but I have never been more relieved to see some actual footballing action than this afternoon. Forget the blatant hypocrisy of such a statement from one who revels in the minutiae of Henry Blofeld-esque off-the-pitch distractions – if it weren’t for the games themselves, this blog would be nothing but a glorified Twitter feed outlining my plans for tomorrow’s lunch. I’m having pork chops, incidentally.

And I clearly wasn’t the only one pleased to be back at the DW Stadium. With pantomime season bearing down upon us quicker than a tabloid journo approaching the counter at Robin Park Poundsville (for camera batteries, of course), the assembled audience delighted in ten solid minutes of heavily scripted ‘banter’ befitting Frank Bruno in Peter Pan. Banter which, come to think of it, wasn’t football related either. But I, er, promise you I’ll move on to the match now.

Don’t listen to him – he’s lying.

A new manager brought a shiny new defensive line-up starring a certain other local hero, a fully recovered Emmerson Boyce. But it was the returning Chris McCann that most excited the rowdy hordes with a central midfield Billy Whizz burst of speed to earn a free kick just outside the Boro D. Or maybe it was fellow Scot Shaun Maloney, who planted said free kick onto the crossbar?

Whichever your favourite moment, these events proved ample dress rehearsal for a goal manufactured in almost precisely the same manner. After being wrestled to the turf just inches from the original infraction, McCann once again handed over to the on-form Maloney, who this time missed the crossbar completely. But only because he swerved the ball perfectly between Konstantopoulos and goalpost.

A brief interlude saw the introduction of a new half time game… which, somewhat unusually, took place some 20 minutes into the first half. The ‘Hit The North-West Corner Flag’ competition was won by two separate participants, who each received a Made In Wigan, Wrapped In Wigan Jar of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls (Yeah). Sigh, I miss the bloke who used to announce the half time draw winners.

Anyhow, Middlesbrough were the ones keeping their legs all aglow with a protracted campaign to destroy Scott Carson’s gloves one shot at a time. But for all the studs they lost churning up the final third, the aforementioned mitts remained relatively unruffled and tainted only by ink from the Guardian’s puzzle page. Carse *still* can’t get 4 down: a general statement or concept obtained by inference from specific cases (14 letters)…

Hmm. Fetch me the journalist’s handbook of terms…

Look, little Timmy! It’s a flock of camera lenses flying south for the winter. (c)European People’s Party

Half time chip paper was brushed from the pitch’s perimeter just in time for the resumption of an increasingly engaging encounter with an appetite fuelled by a two-week absence of domestic football. But despite the hosts’ energetic start, it was Middlesbrough that feasted on succulent goal, with Patrick Bamford racing from the bench to evade the advancing Carson with his first touch.

This was only a minor inconvenience for the strengthening Latics, however. Aspiring centre forward Boyce struck the inside of the post (with ball rather than boot), while the magical bootlaces of a marauding McCann guided an effort just the wrong side of Konstantopoulos‘s grateful crossbar. Hmm, Marty ‘McFly’ McCann’s self-lacing mechanism must have malfunctioned on this occasion.

Middlesbrough might have managed Maloney’s menacing corners, but could they survive Ben Watson? Yes, FA Cup fans – the Hart Humbler himself was back on Wigan soil for the first time since teletext was still current thanks to a substitution brought to you by Mackay Enterprises. Or should that be The Rosler Company?

As it happened, the visitors were fine – they even played out stoppage time the stronger team. Only a strong-willed referee stood between them and a last-gasp penalty kick as two nearby defenders successfully performed a co-ordinated squeeze; a collective sigh of relief was distinctly audible as no whistle ensued. But in truth, Wigan’s water gun had emptied some ten minutes earlier, and Boro’s defence (which consisted of three big kids and the neighbour’s German Shepherd) of the refill station was strong enough to withstand the home side’s slingshot fire of discarded bottle caps.

OK, that metaphor was about as effective as newsprint is strong, but I am aware you’re only here to laugh at the typical Christmas cracker-style copy complete with typos and misprints. And the prize? Well, this article is now complete and you can go back to reality… as soon as I snap my fingers.

…Wait, where are you going? I still haven’t moved my hand!

You are still under my control. You will now go and buy me a box of jam doughnuts…

Second opinion

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