So I boarded the E376 Special bus from Wigan Wallgate to Swindon, and there was a guy making weird exhaling noises. Sheepishly swivelling my neck to look, I realised he was using the hanging straps as mini punchbags.
Minutes later, the same gentleman was pacing up and down the aisle, shimmying past protruding seats and standing passengers as if they were boxers in a red metal double decker boxing ring. As he passed for the third time, I noticed that ‘Rocky’ was emblazoned across the back of his replica strip.
And then the conductor stepped aboard.”Right, you lot had better behave yourselves on this trip.”
I glanced over at Rocky, who was at this time calmly perched on a small stool with a supermarket plastic bag wrapped around his neck. That was, until the conductor announced it was time to go. He reached over to the bell.
Rising swiftly from his stool, Rocky landed a centimetre-perfect right hook wonderpunch on the poor guy’s proboscis. And Mr Conductor should have seen it coming, really – he *was* Billy Connolly, and I did steal that joke from him.
I make light of such things, but extreme megatraffic is no chortling matter. Those still trapped in 150-mile tailbacks somewhere near Manchester at 5pm might have been jollied by this impromptu staging of Rocky VIII… well, maybe just a little bit.
But Wigan Athletic is the caring club. Out of respect for the unfortunate souls on Sharpy’s Hot Cross Country Coach Tours (fish and chips included), Latics showed great restraint in holding back their true potential until the full complement of coaches had arrived safely at the County Ground.
And it visibly pained the players to wait. Hurtling down the left, the eager Chris McCann simply couldn’t help himself feeding Bilko Grigg with the perfect mistake. “Aye, boss, I swear I completely mis-hit my ball into the area.”
The thing is, he did – but his scuffed cross landed in just the right spot for kung fu master Griggsy-san to sweep the leg and bulge the net. He will sheepishly claim he didn’t mean to do that, but we all know he did really. And that’s fine, because I think those dudes stuck on the M1 will forgive him this aberration.
Besides, what was to come next can cure any and every type of coach lag pseudo-science has ever diagnosed.
Speaking rationally, it was a silly decision for Max Power to shoot from 25 yards. Yes, he might have cut in from the left with such great momentum, and yes, the space might have opened up for him, and yes, his strike might have been sweeter than those old recipe Cadbury’s Creme Eggs (but not the new ones since they made them smaller).
But any thoughts of rationalism fade when the ball goes sailing past an utterly bewildered, bamboozled and bewitched flying goalkeeper.
More than that, the next five minutes would thoroughly defy every law of rational thinking.
How did Wilkie Grigg’s crumpled semi-shot end up defeating Tyrell Bedford? Well, you’ll have ask that poor unfortunate defender’s leg, the genuine scorer of Wigan Athletic’s second goal. Because its final touch, which sent the ball looping over the goalie like an Ian Botham bumper, was far more accurate than Latics’ leading goalscorer could ever be.
Holt fans turn away now
When this sort of comic book football is leaping forth from the pages, you’d advise people like Sam Morsy to go for goal as soon as they pick up the ball within distance. Don’t try to kill the poor thing, just carefully caress it into the corners of goal – it’ll surely be attracted to them much as Grant Holt is attracted to concession stands. (Sorry, just thought I’d get that one in a few days early.)
Such was Gary Caldwell’s advice, and such was Latics’ fourth goal. If I were GC, I’d be extremely worried about how predictable all of that was!
Though Yanic Wildschut set up that last scintillating strike, you would argue it hadn’t quite worked for him this evening. This was encapsulated in an incident to follow: through on goal, he fired right at the goalkeeper – his last action of the game, as he became Latics’ second substitution moments later.
And soon, Grigg followed Power and Yanic back to the bench. A fingersnapping Captain Cald clearly just remembered those two games in a week to come.
Yeah, well Latics didn’t have to imagine – they were doing that just now. And when Haris Vuckic tripped over the ball some 10 yards from Swindon’s penalty area, Nicky Ajose spied the perfect opportunity to improve his burgeoning goal tally. Jussi was disproportionately annoyed to have been beaten, considering Latics’ hefty scoreline.
Unfortunately, the game’s final word came from ref Andy Davies. Having finally fished the little coloured cards from his fluff-stuffed pocket, he hastily shoved one into Louis Thompson’s crumpled face without a moment’s hesitation. And normally I’d say it was a poorly thought-out decision, but those pesky intrusive television cameras will certainly prove me wrong.
In fact, it is for that reason I am retiring forever.
…Yes, I will become a tyre fitter! See, after today’s unusually sub-par ‘report’ I’ll be re-tyring Sharpy’s tour buses for the rest of my life…
Coming this Monday: the Latics Easter road trip continues! You won’t get rid of me that easily…