Iiiiin this corner, reigning League Two Champions and proud owners of the division’s best defensive record, sometime leaders of the Teletext League Table, the mighty Biscuit Men of east Staffordshire!
In the silver and gold corner, it’s the championship-chasing side fuelled by discarded fish and chip papers and a Blue Peter parachute made entirely of five pound notes, the mighty Pie Men of east Lancashire!
Waaay over in that corner, a team led by the best Jordy ever to play for Wigan Athletic, the lions that ball boys just can’t tame, Goalscoring Midfielder FC, the mighty Banksy’s Beer Men of the West Midlands!
In the ‘your defence is terrified’ corner, lucky winners of the ticket lottery, that 1700-man Gala tribute act, the ‘Up The Table-Toppin’ Tics’ Army!
Aaand in the beer-soaked corner, weighing in at precisely two packets of cheese and onion crisps, half the town of Wigan crammed into three small rooms with a one-camera feed of proceedings. And if that doesn’t convey the weight of this occasion, your small time internet blogger has no hope of ever doing so… even if he was one of those sardines stretching his neck for a partial view of what appeared to be Jason Pearce’s rear end.
Three shots on target. Two goals. One tense evening.
In a quietly contemplative corner of the North Stand’s Beamback Marquee, a nervous silence greeted the starting line-ups. These spectators were clearly afforded some Nostradamus-esque insight, for anxiety was to be the prevailing emotion in the two gruelling hours to come.
In the ‘take your time to clear it’ corner of the Pirelli Stadium, Stephen Warnock soon found himself trapped against an ominously large corner flag. It was early evidence that this would be no free-flowing goalfeast – The Brewers’ watchful yellow and black security force would see to that. Let’s put it this way: I very much doubt they are SIA licensed.
In the ‘poke it hopefully towards goal’ corner, Michael Jacobs did, on rare occasion, slip through Burton’s cordon of co-ordinated heavies. And he was ultimately successful, as his ‘definitely not a shot, guv’nor’ ball across the face flummoxed all present on its meandering path to goal. The Marquee crowd were certainly taken aback by this turn of events… but that didn’t stop them enjoying the moment. 1-0 Wigan.
In the ‘can’t defend set pieces’ corner, Greco-Roman wrestling fan Reece Wabara was about to be punished for his blatant flouting of the sport’s ‘non-contact’ regulations. No, he wasn’t sent off for his misdemeanours. But as Tom Naylor rose to comfortably forehead Matthew Palmer’s subsequent free kick over an exposed goal line, Wabara gingerly raised his arm to acknowledge the fault.
Don’t lose. Don’t lose. Don’t lose (your teeth)…
In the ‘we go again’ corner, the previously enthused Latics were now being pegged to their own jumbo-sized corner flags again. Devoid of room to play the ball to anyone but the ghost of Will Grigg in a long-abandoned Burton penalty area, ball retention became decidedly tricky. Either the hosts were pressing well, or Wigan are afraid of spooky things.
In the ‘now’s our chance’ corner, Burton seized control with razor sharp man-to-man hassling. This was *their* gaff, and they were gonna scream into your ear as loud as they darn well pleased!
But in the ‘very few shots on target’ corner, all attempts were being charged down or thwarted by a fortunately-placed limb or seventeen. Hey, this ain’t the Championship (just) yet, boys, so you gotta keep up appearances by kicking a few shins!
In the ‘we came for a point’ corner, the harried visitors resolved to segment their opponents’ attacks with some well-rehearsed time ticking tactics. If anything, Jussi’s 24 years as a professional footballer have only made him much more blatant and forthright in his… well, we’ll call it ‘strategic ball retention’. But it was more like this:
“Oh, Burton! Come and get the ball, boys. I’ll leave it right here for you to collect. Look, it’s right there for you to take right from my feet! Here, it’s a present for y- yeah, no, I’m gonna pick that up and wait another ten seconds before smacking it outta the stadium.”
The ref obviously found it funny as no booking was forthcoming. Or maybe he recognised it was the only joy Latics could extract from a grinding half of (sometimes) football – to deny them would be heartless.
Well, I guess it was mild compared to Lawrence Vigouroux.
In the ‘coulda pinched it late’ corner, subbies Yanic Wildschut and Haris Vuckic were now bolstering an admittedly deep lying forward three. A final minute corner kick fell to 3rd sub Daniels on the edge… but hey, based on everything I’ve just said, you can guess what happened next. Too many pairs of legs between him and the goal, too bad.
In the ‘ref’s final whistle’ corner, all concerned gave a small nod of appreciation. Burton’s pitch of many, many corners narrowly failed to ensnare yet another victim; Latics’ defence of many corners narrowly held out… for one day.
The beat goes on.