The League Cup has fallen upon desperate times. Following the withdrawal of its plastic cash manufacturing sponsor, it has become destitute, walking the urban jungles completely naked save for a codpiece marked ‘property of the EFL’.
But it’s much better this way. Though people initially grimace at the sight of this unkempt Tuesday night beast, they eventually come to accept the (Nottingham?) forest of pie crumbs dwelling on its exposed chest.
This is, after all, the League Cup as nature originally intended. This is football free of divisional boundaries or the need to satisfy a bunch of sarcastic webloggers and wannabe journalistic types. This is shin-splitting sport at its purest.
This is the all new English Football League Cup. Which actually includes Welsh teams, so it should technically be called the English Football League Plus Cardiff Plus Swansea (And Newport County) Cup. For brevity, we shall henceforth call it the EFLPCPS(AS) Cup.
And this was the match dubbed ‘El Latico’ by those gracious enough to even accept there is another club in Lancashire daring to bear the sacred name. Which there isn’t, officially – like Sealand and the United Kingdom, neither principality acknowledges the other’s existence. And you wouldn’t wish to argue with either, mostly because the subsequent existential quandary would cause your head to explode.
Best to concentrate on the football, eh?
200 miles from Sealand, Oldham burst clean through Wigan’s early possession and hard-coded passing drills with something significantly more effective – a satisfying individual goal. Pinching possession from a dazed Donervon Daniels, Ryan Flynn methodically navigated a slalom of defenders before perfectly placing the ball onto the inside of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s post.
But when the visitors’ drills did begin to function, Oldham were forced to pitch the windjammers. An effervescent Jordan Flores briefly moonlighted as a makeshift centre forward, manufacturing a couple of probing attempts in just over a couple of minutes. Thankfully for Connor Ripley, the keeper was able to win both contests with a keen eye and sticky pair of gloves.
Believe it or not, Ripley’s hands really are this big.
From close range, however, Will Grigg shall *always* win. League One’s Golden Bootman struck up the visiting choral group by punching home a Buxton header as if these were the hazy days of April 2016 once more.
The most important question of all: would the Wigan fans add ‘ooh’ to Grigg’s/Mitro’s/Winnall’s song? Intriguingly, yes – general opinion suggests this new, slightly evolved ‘Euro 2016′ version is much better for the addition of that one word.
Remember what I said about this being pure football? Well, the Lancastrian version of ‘pure’ invariably involves six to twelve lacerating studs slicing yer leg clean in two, lad. Or at least, Jake Buxton’s does.
…But ref Geoff (Reoff?) Eltringham’s does not. Since officials can only ever win such a battle, Buxton took a seat for the first of his 270+ looong minutes in the sin bin.
That sending off didn’t much change Wigan’s general attacking sensibilities. Ryan Colclough was next to step up for the visitors’ All-Star Wannabe Centre Forward Show, where everyone’s a striker. But Ripley won this talent contest without even touching the ball, killing all goalscoring angles with more fast feet.
The sending off *did* change Oldham’s attacking sensibilities – they instantly seemed infinitely more potent. The rambunctious Lee Erwin was an immediate threat, pelting Jussi J with a couple of very useful –maybe even threatening– warm-up exercises.
As the game cycled through more mood swings than a coffee-fuelled reality TV contestant, both sides (specifically Michael Jacobs and Peter Clarke) booted/headed exercise book howlers into Grant Holt Land (to clarify: that’s the River Medlock).
Please burst through walls responsibly
But with extra time looming larger than a steroid-fuelled reality TV contestant named Arnold, the side with eleven men smashed through Wigan’s wall as if they were John Madden in a cheesy mid-90s Miller Lite advert.
As Flynn sent bricks and mortar spraying across the length and breadth of Boundary Park, Josh Law sneaked the ball past Jussi under cover of dust. Their work done, the home faithful proceeded to fell the ground’s remaining structures… with the power of noise, of course. Yep.
At our Geoff’s final whistle, the Wigan Athletic academy’s finest were present: subs Danny O’Brien, Sam Cosgrove and James Barrigan all stood to applaud 400 travelling supporters. Their task of earning another 30 minutes of game time proved slightly too steep, but perhaps they wouldn’t have wanted it. Extra time with ten men? I’d prefer not to.
Yanic back for Saturday? Yeahyeahyeah, I would much prefer that!