I hope you don’t mind if I begin today’s report with a small shoutout for local journalistic publication and sometime publisher of JWAW guff The Wigan Evening Post. Like those sneaker-wielding ‘ballers in the 16-bit classic NBA Jam, said newspaper has been burnin’ up the borough’s (petrol fore-) courts with its finger-on-the-pulse front page headlines – just search for ‘Wigan Evening Post Box’ and you’ll understand.
It is always a pleasant to be reminded of the wonderful events of 11 May 2013, but passing a WEP news stand this morning, the image of Ben Watson celebrating with Shaun Maloney brought the minutest drop of moisture to the corner of my eyeball. Although that day was less than two years ago, the squad has undergone such a transformation (or even series of transformations) that it is almost unrecognisable in January 2015.
Those heady days are long gone, and much as it pains me, I feel it is time to look to the future. As both the aforementioned heroes could be gone by the end of the week, I will never again speak of the moment Sir Ben glanced Sir Shaun’s corner beyond the shoulder of a floundering Joe Hart. Nevermore shall I reminisce over the open top bus cutting its way through thousands lining the streets Wigan town centre.
Hah, fat chance o’ that!
*Sets FA Cup Final DVD to endless repeat*
While Callum McManaman remains a Wigan Athletic player, there is always room for an FA Cup-related daydream when he cavorts down the touchline. His contribution to the tie with Huddersfield in that campaign was significant, and game-changingly so… oh, for a similar performance in the heat of a Championship relegation battle. Oh, for a point or three!
Sure enough, a rejuvenated Macca was back in action, evoking sweet memories of ’13 with every menacing stare and patented stepover. But his influence in the first half wasn’t quite of the same ilk, even if the sprightliness of those glory years threatened to shine through much as the sun does from the departed Dr Watson’s posterior. *Choral chimes*
Though Huddersfield most impressed in that formative 45, their reward was scant, as two radio goal line clearances from Liam Ridgewell and Martyn Waghorn were effective enough. Get used to such scrambles, because they are set to be prevalent in the months January-May.
A single set piece stood clear as Latics’ most threatening spell during this period, and resultant prods goalwards from McClean and Perch could have been enough to stimulate Alex Smithies’ sweat glands. As it happened, his lucky towel remained firmly attached to the goal netting alongside a series of tasty-looking discarded pie wrappers.
Attackers in abundance (and the ambulance)
The first part of the second half did much to deplete the Wigan Athletic ranks. Chris McCann limped worryingly towards the dugout and then into the heart of the stadium, presumably to be examined by medical experts. And before long, McManaman was also taking a ticket from the DeeDub doctor’s surgery for special treatment on his aching limbs. The Championship can be a harsh, inhospitable place.
The upshot was that the hosts were now fielding two strikers having exhausted their quota of substitutions. Be calm, dear Latic fanatics, for Christmas is still eleven months away! The allegedly in-demand Fortune took up position alongside Delort, who snatched a quick corner with his customary early strike at Smithies.
In actual fact, the lightning fast Delort-ean was as fiery as those NBA Jammers when his third successive attempt rained in on the North Stand net. Maybe we won’t need to trade in our soft drink cans for an expensive striker after all…
Oh, Sir Ben, where are you now?
But however pressing Latics’ claim might have been, Huddersfield’s was 100% more effective. St Helens man Conor Coady floated a ball goalwards, and since nobody cared to stop it, the only place it could go was the top corner. In situations such as these you would normally blame the wind, but since there was none, I shall curse the ghost of Homer the Pigeon.
With neither McManaman or Watson (or even McCann) to break the rice pudding skin covering Huddersfield’s goalmouth, it fell to Scott Carson to fill the gap. He made a long trip to the opposition area for Kvist’s lucky lotto punt as the game neared its final breath, but the ticket was swiftly ripped from his hands by a bellowing pack of Terriers. Hah, that’ll teach you for resorting to a one in 16million gamble!
I’m not going to let all that ruin the magic of FA Cup Fourth Round day, however. This is Bradford’s day, this is Middlesbrough’s day. This is Blackburn’s day… it is certainly not Wigan’s, and one begins to wonder how long it will be before it is again.