Ordinarily, one looks to FA Cup Third Round Day as a rare chance to relax and enjoy a break from the ‘day job’ of the Football League, a sideshow, if you will.
..Ooh, I’m only fooling myself with that nonsense. Was the 2013 FA Cup Final a dodgy juggling act with cream-filled water balloons? Can Bolton v Wigan ever be relegated to the undercard alongside the Amazing Santa Claus Dog and Hypno the Wonder Swan, no matter how enticing such ‘acts’ might sound?
Would Malky Mackay really pick a full reserve team for a glorified friendly with the hallowed piece of moulded tin at stake? Is it really worth pitting an untested 18-year old against the mighty forearms of Sir Emile Heskey? And will I ever stop passing off these rhetorical questions copy-pasted from a certain Latics opinion website as valid editorial content?
Unwrapping Old Ivanhoe on Christmas Eve must have been a festive delight for The Pesk’s former rivals. He may turn 37 in a couple of weeks, but as every Wanderer would be quick to point out (shortly before letting out a hearty belly laugh at the Pies’ expense), an ageing striker is always better than no striker at all. Oh, to be able to draw on the considerable experience of a man with 62 England caps right now! Actually… oh, to have a goalscorer of any sort with more than one leg.
Yep, I am man enough to admit I am jealous of Bolton Wanderers. See, I’m feeling better about making that New Year’s resolution to ‘be more honest’ already.
Come and get your tickets to see the Astonishing Ali, Spider-Keeper!
It was, however, an altogether different prodigal son that ruthlessly thwarted his former half time orange suppliers in the opening exchanges. Solution to the previous cryptic sentence: Ali Al Habsi neutralised the rampant hosts by doing the only thing he knows – protecting his precious sticks as if they were the final helping of meat and potato pie at the Westhoughton Omani Firemen’s Club on New Year’s Eve. Emile twice clenched his fist and swore revenge as Wigan’s own cup specialist plucked both attempts from the very clutches of the goalmouth he once patrolled on a fortnightly basis. It was as if… he had come home.
(Pause for dramatic effect.)
The aptly-named Liam Trotter, too, was to be cruelly denied by a bothersome linesman that refused to let an offside decision slide just this once, even with the incentive of a post-match eggnog (from the bargain bin at PoundSava, best before 1 January). Happily, professionalism won out in this instance and Zach Clough was flagged a quarter of a second before ball met net.
Do you get the picture yet? The hosts domineered, and but for a brace of ‘Hail Mary’ blocks from Kiernan and Perch, might have applied a few more splodges of mud to Al Habsi’s gloves come hoof time (geddit, because they’re, like, the Trotters? Hyuk).
Quick, take your seats for the Amazing Bogdan show!
And Bolton’s battering of the Latics backline continued. Al Habsi and his fellow blockers (Ali and the Blockheads?) initially remained steadfast, causing an exuberant Clough to become even more frustrated as yet another effort deflected narrowly wide. Careful, you won’t like him when he’s angry.
Latics spied their chance to push forward as the hosts took a breather, but neither Forshaw nor McCann could direct their headed efforts past the Amazing Bogdan (presumably a relation of that snooker trick shot guy), and a hulked-up Incredible Clough was keen to paint the visitors’ faces an embarrassing shade of green.
Finally, Astonishing ‘Unbeatable’ Ali was beaten. It was debatable whether he could have prevented Clough pitching a well-placed sand wedge beyond his grasp – not even Al Habsi’s Boxing Day high heels would have afforded him sufficient height as to reach it. But dodgy defending had finally caught up with Latics, and the only question was why Heskey wasn’t the one to feast upon goalcake… oh yeah, because he had been subbed some fifteen minutes earlier. Also, he ate a full plate of sausages at half time. Allegedly.
There was time for one final Latics attempt, but Maloney’s free kick hit only Bogdan body parts on its way out for a corner. As nothing came of it, that mythical Wigan Athletic unbeaten FA Cup record was in one moment carried away on the rather congested 17:15 from Bolton to Wigan Wallgate. 45 persons per carriage my backside…
Well, at least there’s no chance of us losing ground to the top 21 today, so fetch me some more of that cheese drink. What do you mean, that was milk?!