“Mr Whelan, your posh bus to Wigan Beer Festival awaits…”
Give or take the odd leap day, it has been approximately one year since Uncle Dave tossed those precious club keys across the Champagne Lounge to grandson David Sharpe.
“I’m off to Barbados for the next ten years. Look after ‘er, will ya,” he bellowed cheerfully, the last of his words becoming faint as he sped down Stadium Way in his chauffeur-driven stagecoach (AKA the 33 Stagecoach bus to Manchester Airport).
That was obviously a comedic dramatisation. However, Sharpey’s first few months in charge were certainly nothing be humoured by – with a fat squad of (sometimes fat) overpaid dissenters, it was a wonder that new boss Gary Caldwell managed to paste together a semi-sentient first XI, let alone scrape a draw.
But just look at ‘im now, the proud owner of a spanking new second hand training facility courtesy ebay.co.uk and a club on its way back to the Champi-
Alright, I won’t say it. I am reliably informed that the J in JWAW stands for jinx, so let’s bow our heads and get back to the exam.
Abseil of the Season
The poor guy was stuck in this position for over a minute! (c)Vital Wigan
The first week of March brought an all-new pristine white match ball, rapelled into the DW Stadium by Mohamed Diame. And to the printer: just in case auto-correct screwed up that last sentence, those last two words should be spelled T.H.E. A.R.M.Y.
(It was actually the Marines that abseiled from the East Stand walkway, but I didn’t feel like making a similar joke involving Marcelo Moreno…)
Said ball sat snugly inside Jussi Jaaskelainen’s netting on 2 minutes thanks to a spot of smooth Shaq fu. In other words, our old buddy Shaquile Coultihurst was waiting to slam dunk a 2-pointer… but thankfully, the linesman opened his eyes just in time to spot the Posh man in an offside position. More of a case of ‘Shaq f-oooh, unlucky’. Ahem.
In an ironic twist of fate, it took a Jussi J injury to lift Latics’ game. Well, I say ‘injury’, but his substitution was surely precautionary – if anything, it was more of an excuse to give the man a thoroughly deserved 30-second standing ovation as he strolled gingerly towards the changing rooms. Can’t take chances where clashes of heads are involved, I suppose.
Anyway, replacement Lee Nicholls barely put pristine white glove to (no longer pristine white) ball in the remainder of a half that his side controlled almost too comfortably. Following a passage of perfect passing, Yanic Wildschut’s sidefoot spun mere centimetres from Stuart Moore’s right hand upright. Luxurious stuff.
However, Latics had made all three of their substitutions by the start of the second half. Conor McAleny tweaked his leg while (unsuccessfully) stretching to shoot from 25 yards, while Pearce… well, I dunno if he broke a nail. But new entrants Barnett and McCann adopted central defensive and sweeper roles respectively.
A new half, a new line-up. (c)Vital Latics
Thanks to some encouragement from Graham Westley and his polystyrene cup of (presumably) lukewarm coffee, the Posh began the second half with an almost caffeine-fuelled energy. Marcus Maddison drew Nicholls off his goal line, but the latter summoned the spirit of Juicy by baulking this particular effort with his tree trunk legs.
Moments later, Peterborough keeper Moore returned the favour by sending the bovversome Ryan ‘Flymo’ Colclough’s lawn-cutter back towards the half way line. Latics were slowly acclimatising to a slightly unfamiliar setup.
And on 71 minutes, they were ahead. With the scrambling defence at his mercy, Wilco Grigg calmly rolled the ball underneath Moore to re-establish the home side’s control… for the time being.
You see, that Maddison chap is the owner of one heck of an accurate free kick – everything about this one, from his cricket bowler run-up to the execution, was inch-precise. A pity we couldn’t say the same for Nicholls’ positioning, but perhaps certain lucky observers have been spoiled by Jussi’s Championship quality saves of late. Ahh, don’t you fret – I’m sure the Finn will be back next week.
Oh, can’t you just forget about that guy already?
Speaking of superlative stops, the visitors had one Moore in them. (You see, because it was made by Stuart Moore. Ahem.)
I believe it was Wilkinson Grigg that poked the ball goalwards with more than enough force to defeat the keeper. But that final, telling jerk of Moore’s powerful left wrist diverted it just beyond the North Stand goal frame… more than anything else, it earned his side a point.
Nevertheless, I believe Latics still have cause for an anniversary celebration, so David Sharpe will take each and every one of his first team players for an evening meal at the Wigan Beer Fest. Fish and chips, of course! Oh, and a new motor for Mike Pollitt, who unfortunately crumpled his bonnet the other day. Hmm, he must have been so surprised to see that retrospective of Highbury 2006 in the Evening Post…
This was surely an omen! My regards go to the Wigan Athletic goalkeeping staff this weekend. (c)Mike Pollitt