Gary was taken aback by what he saw in the mirror. Overnight, he had grown a thick, bushy beard so long it fused with his chest hairs.
“Congratulations on completing your first year as manager,” came a mysterious voice that sounded an awful lot like Owen Coyle’s. “The beard is your present. Next year you shall receive a full head of grey hair. The next you will have three extra frown lines on your brow.
“The next year you will be given extra long shorts that stretch just below the kneecap. The year after that you will receive a lifetime’s supply of doughnuts and glucose energy dri-”
The voice’s monologue ended abruptly as Gary hurled his tub of [branded hair care product deleted] at the mirror, cracking it into 1932 tiny David Perkins-sized pieces.
“Great, now how am I going to shave this thing off? Where’s me spare mirror…?”
Ho-ho-hold that thought.
Fresh from his appearance on a certain sports-related Saturday lunchtime television programme, the clean-shaven Captain Caldwell took up his usual position on the edge of the DW dugout, arms folded. And there he stayed for much of the opening 45 minutes of Wigan vs Coventry, which the visitors can claim to have edged.
For all the hosts’ possession, it was the Sky Blues — today playing in Santa Claus red — that made Jussi hurtle about his penalty area like a hyperactive squash player. And when I say that, I’m mostly referring to John Fleck’s 25-yard ‘low rumbler‘, which the sometime Finnish international gymnast managed to fist round the post at full stretch.
Alright, JJ never *quite* made it to the Olympics. But today, he certainly was agile enough to parry away Jodi Jones’s short range snap strike, sparing his side a swift smack on the bottie. Stephen ‘Not Neil’ Warnock was the first to offer congratulations, as it was his uncharacteristic mistake that instigated this impromptu Covee break.
(Ed: Oooh, ohh! I remember that from a certain Saturday morning sports-related television programme!)
Latics *did* make a speedy start. In fact, they were so fast that the DW’s scoreboard timer simply could not keep up – it remained stuck on 0:00 for about a minute after kickoff. In that ‘lost’ time, Wild Willy Grigg almost raced through on goal, and Sam Morsy sat rubbing his leg following an eye-watering challenge.
When the scoreboard finally kicked into action, so did Yanic Wildschut, who dribbled a full 60 yards from his own penalty area. And when he repeated the feat a bit later on, he earned himself a standing ovation from certain sections of the East Stand. Though it must be admitted that nothing came of either run, such athleticism simply must be applauded!
But the second half was when the hosts kicked into championship-winning gear; their dominance was nigh on absolute, their authority tangible. At least, this was certainly the case after they hit the lead.
It was a goal comprised almost entirely of passes – even the final touch (sort of) caressed the ball into the roof of the net with a controlled confidence. Wilberforce Grigg might have been the man to finally guide the ball past a sprawling Reice Charles-Cook, but equal credit must also be handed to the five or six men that helped create his 20th goal of the season.
And that was the ball game.
Three points won, time to head home in time for Stars on Sunday on Saturday. With thirty whole minutes of the game left to play. Yes, really.
Such was Latics’ dominance that an extended cheer greeted a highly welcome (and sought after) Coventry free kick. And this jollity wasn’t unjustified.
Such was Latics’ dominance that the home fans were in a good enough mood to cheer substitute Marc-Antoine Fortune back onto the DW pitch… even if he was subsequently given the drunken pantomime booing treatment when he ballooned a misguided strike into the supermarket car park.
And such was Latics’ dominance that a soaking wet Willpower Grigg had the enviable luxury of being able to miss a penalty kick. From the second ref Dean Whitestone begrudingly awarded the spot kick to the moment Charles-Cook comfortably punched clear, a particularly sheepish Grigg was never likely to score.
But it was merely a moment of false hope for the visitors, who barely put foot to ball following that incident. The lack of a mythical second Latics goal was not enough to relinquish League One points, nor a share of the league leaders’ celebratory non-alcoholic beverage that rhymes with lion grue.
And such treats are richly earned – as we reach the end of this particular season, each Saturday is becoming a miniature Christmas.