Note: this article contains violence, conjecture and Grant Holt. You have been warned.
Before this weekend, the League One table was finely balanced with most sides having played 37 games. But one round of international fixtures later and BOOM! Teams are flying off in all directions, getting pulled over by over-zealous cops and ploughing through traffic island flower beds.
One might even say that an international weekend for League One is the equivalent of a bloke running naked onto a busy intersection at 5pm on Good Friday. Wonderful to see he’s so excited about the long weekend to come and everything… but not so wonderful when you’re distractedly smashing into street lamps and pillar boxes, Mike Pollitt-style.
Speaking of car crash television…
After some freakishly cartoon Latics television coverage on Friday, it’s a relief to return to the bubble of our own blissful obscurity. I’ll admit it has been fun listening to ‘impartial’ observers of Wigan Athletic spout their patented commentary-by-numbers: “They wuz droppin’ down tha divijuns but now they is going back up agen, bro”.
But it does make you appreciate how good our wholeheartedly biased club commentary really is.
The animated Ash and his returning sidekick Micky ‘Boy Wonder’ Jacobs were certainly excited by the opening stages of Latics vs Rochdale. Sprinting clean through an initial burst of Dale power, Stephen ‘Not Neil’ Warnock travelled a full 40 yards to tee up Sam Morsy for a repeat of Friday’s 25-yard superstrike… but on this day, this keeper was equal to it. Touché.
It was an early indication that this was not Good Friday. I should have believed my calendar in this regard, really.
Would you like some more evidence? Well, Yanic Wildschut took a full Easter weekend to compose himself and guide Reece Wabara’s ‘hot’ cross towards goal. But by the time the ball finally left his boot, a defender’s flailing limb was poised to punch it away for a corner. An embarrassed Jussi J became very red in the face, for it was a better save than he could ever have managed.
But the game-defining incident came on 33 minutes, when Jason Pearce hauled down the irate Ian Henderson for a certain booking. However, since the latter lashed out in a manner similar to David Beckham against Argentina at France ’98, he was predictably ordered to make the short trip to the West Stand tunnel. And yes, that might have been a ham-fisted compliment… I am a MMA fan, after all.
Hey, that reminds me – I wonder how Callum McManaman is doing these days? Anyway…
As anticipated, this dismissal increased the home side’s determination, if not potency. Wildschut and Perkins(!) ruled the left wing, but Dale ruled their own 6 yard box… mostly because Wilmington Grigg was perpetually 3 yards behind any balls in towards him. In fact, he was so late you’d think he had forgotten to put his clock forward.
But the hosts’ dominance escalated to a point where the Rochdale faithful cheered a Wigan foul throw as if it were a goal. And when our hero the Holtmeister arrived on the touchline, I’m certain I heard a few head explosions from the general direction of the North Stand. Not that it had been a boring 0-0 up to this point, but such events certainly *did* amount to overstimulation.
Oh, imagine the damage a goal would inflict…
No need to imagine, as one was about to arrive. But please don’t expect it to be a magical Easter storybook strike or anything like that. In fact I’m still not certain who got the final touch, and I have seen 10+ replays from as many different angles.
The ball crept over the line, Conor McAleny claimed it, and that is all you need to know. Forget the build up, which was tantamount to constructing a concrete wall out of Lego. You don’t even need to look up the highlights on YouTube if you don’t want to.
In retaliation, Dale switched to three up front. But in doing so, they left themselves two men short at the back, which could have made for a suitably overexciting final fifteen. The anticipant Ashman and Robin held on to their respective beards.
However, Latics decided they would be thrilled with a 1-0 victory, and resolved to pass their unfortunate opponents to near death. And as we have witnessed on various occasions, it is a viable tactic to prevent Grant Holt scoring against you.
The G-Man *did* have a couple of blocked efforts in stoppage time (and there might have been a penalty for him to polish off) but Jussi’s palms remained comfortably untested. As a result, I am henceforth applying for a refund of my match ticket courtesy Mr G Holt… but I will accept lunch in a fancy restaurant!
…Well alright, I’ll settle for the supermarket cafe as long as there are pies.