Latics are down their last Rolo. (c)Mackintosh
Oh football, why must you tease us so? Why do you offer us the final sweet in the packet before swiftly throwing it to the dog the moment you see us reach for it? You shouldn’t do that anyway because human chocolate is bad for dogs – it simultaneously breaks all their legs, if thenetvet.notarealsite.com is to be believed. Football, you animal abuser you!
Wandering through Wigan town centre at 5pm, I just so happened to spot a team of white van men dismantling a stage at Market Place, the very location we heartily welcomed the FA Cup trophy to this humble town waaaay back in 2013. It struck me how very apt this ‘end of the party’ moment seemed, what with Big Dave Whelan’s Latics shindig drawing to an emotional close.
Each discarded Irn Bru vessel retrieved from hedgerow or pub windowsill symbolised a moment from Wigan Athletic’s glory years: Jason Roberts’ last minute goal at Highbury, Maynor Figueroa’s 200-yard strike at Stoke, that time Paul Scharner pretended to eat a pie but didn’t (it was probably pastic)… and oh yeah, did I mention we won the FA Cup?
But this afternoon was like that final scene in Cheers, only with a distinctly northern ‘my club’s better than your club’ schoolyard atmosphere. In a rousing pre-match speech, Uncle Dave himself actually instigated this by reminding the North Stand that its residents had ‘failed to win the cup in 25 years’… hah, as if the 4,500 Leeds fans (and a dog) needed more ammunition to direct their jovial vitriol East(Stand)wards!
A season in review
That’s it, the show’s over. You can go home now.
I’m not saying the party is over, but… well, I look at my calendar and it’s dangerously close to May 2015 – we’re gonna have to make the most of that precious Wigan Time, if indeed it isn’t already exhausted. I am merely suggesting the ‘teary-eyed nostalgia‘ associated with Mr Whelan’s retirement might just be starting to creep into our general outlook on the 2014/15 season.
When one looks back at the past seven months, it is evident Wigan Athletic have been missing a vital piece – the goalscoring striker. No amount of Kimbo wonder strikes, Harry Maguire headed goals, promising Fortune breaks or spirited James McClean stand-in striker performances have fully negated this. Those defensive troubles have been neutralised to some degree at least, but nobody has stood tall as the man to fill that great pothole the width of the opposition penalty area with any consistency. And it was this issue that proved the most befuddling for Wigan today.
I am willing to skip over the first half, which was fought on the terraces as much as it was on the pitch. Scott Carson plucked a header from the sky and Kimbo had a hopeful attempt deflected wide, but that’s as much as I can recall of any great significance other than ’25 years, you’ve won naff all’. And it looks as though I only half remembered that chant.
Taking the, er, Leed (ahem)
Latics began the second half stronger, with James McClean almost beating Leeds keeper Marco Silvestri at his near post from Ojo’s cross.
But you bit your lip and feared the worst when a deflected clearance fell perfectly at Alex Mowatt’s feet some 20 yards from goal – and with good reason, for the ball soon nestled comfortably in Carson’s net. As the digital advertising hoarding crumpled under the combined weight of seven Leeds bodies, stewards scrambled for their collection buckets in anticipation of a lengthy call to the local electrician.
“Oooh, this is gonna cost you a packet…” (c)Deutsche Fotothek
From hereon in, the visitors understandably had little interest in attacking, and in any case the rock solid Harry Maguire and James Perch were too strong to allow them another shot on target. The real problem was, as has already been covered, the issue of finding a true goal hanger to tap the ball into the South Stand goal. Oh Grant, where are you now?
Latics tried their absolute darnedest to break down the golden barricade, to squeeze the ball through 24+ legs in Leeds’ penalty area just once. Sheyi Ojo in particular showed left wing prowess beyond the general level of football witnessed at the DW this afternoon – it’s just a great pity there were no Latics strikers of the Premier League persuasion to… well, we’ve already discussed this.
Call the cops
Today I will not criticise, for those sat around me in ES2 have already done enough of that for me and a whole busload of small time internet bloggers combined. Heh, in fact should such a coach ever exist I am sure the driver would be inclined to ‘accidentally on purpose’ steer the thing off a cliff. For the good of humanity, you understand!
The issue is no longer mustering the heart, drive or determination or, to a lesser extent, organisation, but having the appropriate piece of skill or ability to take that final step and grab the victory. I mean, breaking down eleven defenders is hard enough for even the greatest of sides… it’s just, well, winning at home seems to be against the law of the land. Might be worth having a word with the cops or something before Bolton are in town later this month.