June 16, 2024

“League One is a slice of thrice-iced Victoria sponge. But that passing in your own six yard box stuff simply won’t fly in the cut-throat Championship,” growled Latics Fan A.

“Don’t change a darn thing! Confidence in consistency can carry you through a league of any quality,” cried Latics Fan B.

“We aren’t sure what to bally well do. Let’s leave it all to Caldwell and blame him afterwards,” said both Latics Fans A and B in unison, before linking arms and skipping down Wigan Pier into the sunset. Or in this town’s case, rainset.

So ended the film of Wigan Athletic’s first three weeks of the new season. But cinemaphiles needn’t fear – the first of 43 cash-milking sequels began in a disused film studio somewhere near Sherwood Forest this afternoon.

Who’s this Selena Gomez chap you keep banging on about?

As popcorn previews subsided, a barrage of jeers greeted the starting lineups. Apparently, the Jordi Gomez fanclub were expressing sheer disgust at the fact their returning hero did not make the first XI.

Simultaneously, non-members of said club commenced a similarly dramatic season card ripping ceremony, expressing their sheer disgust at the fact Jordi Gomez was back at Wigan Athletic.

Trent End
Excuse me, sir! Your neck is leaking… (c)Vital Wigan

But both factions were soon united in their disgust at Dan Burn’s botched pass back to Adam Bogdan. Social media networks instantly bypassed ‘mildly irritated’ and ‘well cheesed off’, hitting ‘nuclear meltdown’ the very instant Britt Assombalonga tucked home on 6 minutes.

However, the very same websites quickly cooled down to ‘bubbling contentment’ as Michael Jacobs tossed a bucket of icy water over the nearest Latics-branded laptop. In other words, he magically wiped away the deficit from 12 short yards before promising his assistant Alex Gilbey a deluxe ice cream sundae.

The Amazing Bogdan, too, had settled down to his usual intimidating self. For his first trick, he fingertipped an Apostolos Vellios bootlacer clear of the crossbar. Now that’s magic.

And as an encore, he confidently palmed away the sprightly Oliver Burke’s threatening sprint ‘n’ shot. Ahh, now we know what Bog Man was watching at 10pm last night!

…He was obviously taking hints from GB’s gold medal winning hockey ‘keeper Maddie Hinch. Of course.

Round two… fight

Forest’s endeavour was soon richly rewarded. Oliver Burke reacted quickest to a swift free kick, steering past a not-so-amazing Bogdan with a chuckle and a cheer. Magicians beware – never give your audience a second look at your trick, because they’ll probably figure it out.

The hosts on fire, Latics were horrified. But like in that women’s hockey final, the higher ranked side could not burst clear.

When Craig Morgan muscled Chris Cohen to the dusty turf, ref James Linington inevitably reached for that dreaded penalty spot.

However, Bog Man was the one sporting the biggest smile of all. Penalties are his favourite pastime, and he spends hours diving around his living room with an Oculus Rift VR headset.

…He likes to play that FIFA shootout simulator thing, of course.

Ghost of Redbeard
Bogdan peers at Vellios through the thick Nottingham fog.

Vellios’s pen was saved before he even decided where to put it. One glance at that glorious red beard is enough to distract anyone, and this occasion was no exception. Bog’s 100% penalty record maintained, Latics were oddly rejuvenated.

Now grab your notepads – this is a lot to take in.

Momentarily, six-yard expert Will Grigg narrowly beat ‘keeper Stephen Henderson to a Luke Garbutt moon ball, and the home side’s advantage had disappeared in an incredible instant. 2-2, Geoff.

But following energy-expending attempts from Luke Burke and Max Power, Latics’ adrenaline was running dangerously low.

Capitalising with glee, Forest Man of the Match Oliver Burke chopped through swathes of ailing legs on his way to a thoroughly satisfying second, his side’s third.

The winner, surely?

Nope, this wasn’t over yet – that right royal pain in the pimply posterior Mr Griggson-Fire would see to that.

A highly tactical (or maybe just lucky) Luke Garbutt throw-in was akin to that rough stuff you find on the side of a matchbox, and Wild Willy burst into flames upon impact – he’d just snaffled the visitors’ third equaliser.

WAFC strikerless matches
Wha… hey, who left these here? They’re two years old!

However, just like they had all afternoon, the hosts were simply stringing their opponents along. Holding out the doggy bone and pulling it away at the very last moment. Flashing a chunk of tempting chocolate before devouring it seconds later, offering a muffled ‘haw haw’ like that annoying kid from The Simpsons.

Forest played the we score you score game to absolute perfection, hitting the lead for the fourth time with mere minutes of stoppage time remaining. Thomas Lam finished the job, hacking Hildeberto Pereira’s cross through the goal netting towards three riotous Championship points.

And I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere, but I’ll be darned if I can find it. This Championship thing is fun though, ain’t it?

Second opinion

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