Mackay: “Boss! Someone replaced my tactics book with this bottom shelf girlie mag!” Whelan: “Let me see that…”
The Christmas party may be over, but do not fear, for Easter will soon be upon us. I know this because my local supermarket now stocks Cadbury’s Creme Egg five packs – presumably the sixth ones have been set aside for Emile Heskey‘s birthday party tomorrow afternoon. He didn’t invite me as I accidentally revealed his age in Hesk years in last week’s FA Cup Big Match Report. Looks like I shall remain one chocolate egg short of a hamper for the whole year, then.
I like it when the Easter treats are hastily shoved onto the shelves, because it reminds me that Wigan Time is surely on the way. You know what I mean, the point in the season when either every other team gives up or Wigan Athletic players coincidentally begin their on-the-pitch campaigns for a big summer move. Or maybe it’s that start of the spinach harvest that signals a Popeye-style strengthening in all areas of the field?
Not to spoil your daydreams of FA Cup success and glorious relegation clashes of seasons past, but we ain’t at that point yet. And it’s only going to get worse – owing to new UEFA regulations, Wigan Time is due to take place four weeks later than usual to accommodate for overallocation of a whole year’s injury time. The press have already dubbed it the ‘Wherezegotthatfrom Delay’.
Cotterill in his hirsute days (c)Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Anefo
Just to bring us crashing back to the blustery realities of early January, Birmingham had the look of the industrious employee who worked through Christmas. There was no turkey sandwich stodginess or post-potato pie perturbations, just a smooth professionalism that a labouring Latics struggled to contain. By contrast, all the visitors’ issues of a dispiriting December clubbed together to make a very generous two-goal donation to the Birmingham cause.
Clayton Donaldson was chief beneficiary of some typically tentative defensive decisions, seizing a couple of proverbial tombola prizes before Wigan were even aware of the existence of such a raffle. New dude Liam Ridgewell exhibited some worryingly MLS traits in gifting possession to George Best Jr AKA David Cotterill, who promptly helped arrange a mutually favourable nod-in for Mr. Donaldson. 67 seconds on the clock, one goal on the pleasingly pixellated scoreboard for the howlin’ hosts.
Local trees were now permanently set at a 45 degree angle thanks to a persistent wind that seemed to aid the Birmingham cause. But unlike Latics, the home side needed no help to strike once again – sheer weight of force would see to that sooner or later. Andrew Shinnie played a perfect cannon off the upright into the path of the prolific Donaldson, who steered past Scott Carson with such ease that he might as well have been sunning himself on a tropical beach in Jamaica. Or Barbados, at least.
Oh, Wat a Knight
“Who’s applauding? I can’t see a thing!” (c)Andy Dolman
Choral chimes greeted the introduction of Sir Ben, who rode into St Andrew’s on horseback with ladyfolk swooning by the Olympia Coachload. Despite all his recent trials, Dr. Watson instigated a change in fortunes with just his awesome presence. A high-pitched whinny was audible in every secluded corner of the stadium as James McClean’s long-range punt struck three horseshoes on its way to the one spot Darren Randolph could not reach – the top corner of his goal.
Presently, an unconfident Ridgewell was consigned to the subs bench, with replacement Martyn Waghorn boosting the striker count to 1. And this change blasted aside Christmas cobwebs with the combined power of three industrial strength leafblowers… well, maybe not as that would be overkill. But Latics’ new tactic was to win corners and hope the solid forehead of Ramis could hoodwink Randolph, which it almost did twice.
Sadly for Latic and neutral alike, Birmingham’s next foray forward proved fatal as Clayton Donaldson quashed the underdogs’ fightback with a belated hat trick strike. For those readying their complaint pens, please consider yourself lucky it didn’t come 45, 30, or 25 minutes earlier (if indeed that can be termed ‘lucky’) otherwise I might have been making yet another uncomfortable reference to WhiteHartLaneGate. The last time I did that, we got precisely… two complaints, and they were mostly about a dodgy typo in the word ‘shot’.
So saturated with action were those 65 minutes, it was inevitable that what remained would be relatively incident-free. At times like these you wish time would accelerate past the end of a game and towards a more prosperous age in the history of Wigan Athletic.
“Is it Wigan Time yet?” “No, so get back to your Solitaire Travel Scrabble.”