June 18, 2024
DW Stadium pitch

Fig. 3: The DW Stadium pitch c. March 2010

DW Stadium pitch
This is what the DW looked like in 2010… an image permanently burned into Arsene Wenger’s brain. Heheh. (c)Illarterate

How times change. Almost exactly five years ago, all we genuinely had to complain about was the quality of the DW surface. This season, it is just one of a veritable selection box of gripes and concerns one might choose to dedicate entire blog posts to. The eternal question remains: which one to go for first? My answer – none of them, since this PoundSava selection box passed its sell by date on 26 December 2014. Although to be fair, that’s newer than most of the jokes on this website, which are so old they fell into the public domain in 1977. *Portable drum hit: badum tish!*

Why would Roberto Martinez, a manager who’s made it clear how passing is an integral part of his tactics this season, want the DW to be in such a state that every time the ball hits the ground you need a crowbar to get it out again? — JWAW, March 2010

Er, thank you for that, JWAW Ghost of Seasons Past. Anyway, is a bad pitch *really* something to complain about? Certainly, when you’re permanently rooted in the doldrums of a Championship relegation battle, you’ll resort to anything to scrape together a first home win since guitar harmonies were still vaguely fashionable. At the final judgement in May (or maybe even March?), at least we can say we gave the ‘crowbar tactics’ a try (no rugby pun intended, maybe)…

A word from Boycey

The Alex Ferguson offensive

Look, Latics’ current issues are tacit, and to further repeat oneself would be a waste of valuable server space that could be spent on a video entitled ’10 Hours of Steven Gerrard Falling Over’. Maybe. In any case, it would be far more constructive to offer reasons why Wigan Athletic *could* yet potentially (perhaps, maybe) pull themselves free of League One’s clutches, so let’s take a manager’s post-match interview stance on last night’s action.

First, however, I’ll have to get this out of the way. From the moment Aron Gunnarsson cut through two lines of defence to knock the ball underneath Al Habsi, Cardiff could dictate the pace of the match and invite Wigan Athletic to do all the work. As the away team desperately searching for victories, it is a sensible and predictable strategy, especially against a team struggling at 23rd in the league table. To summarise the game in one paragraph, this is precisely what happened.

But please don’t go home yet!

In the continued absence of Leon Clarke, Marc-Antoine Fortune and James McClean made up the strikerless(?) Latics frontline as an initially chirpy home crowd enjoyed an enterprising opening fifteen minutes from their side. Debutant wingmen Bong and Pennant each had time on the ball and offered crosses that actually weren’t too close to the goalkeeper – a sign of things to come, perhaps? Maybe, hopefully…

The hosts endured a tough spell immediately following the Icelandic international’s goal, but the lively Bong skilfully set up a well-placed James McClean to power home on 37 minutes. Or maybe he wasn’t so well-placed, since a keen-eyed East Stand linesman immediately raised his flag – Latics would have to try again.

And try again they did, with much vigour. Seemingly powered by Malky’s special Ovaltine, Wigan spent the period 45-50 minutes solidly seeking an equaliser as if their Championship lives depended on it. 8 yards from goal, the unjustly jeered Fortune turned expertly, almost Heskey-esque to let rip with a right foot swinger. Sadly, this was also Heskey-esque in that it flew over David Marshall’s crossbar – it is an art to keep such efforts on target… dare I say, a striker’s art?

Fat Alan Wiley with Alex Ferguson
Alex Ferguson 101: above all else, blame the officials. Hah, any excuse to use this not at all doctored picture again!

Then, er… man, this positivity lark is hard. How did Fergie do this every week? Oh yeah, because his sides usually won. Anyhow…

The last 50p

Cardiff inevitably fashioned chances as Wigan pressed with more force than a kid down to his last 50p on one of those fruit machines at the local arcade. Here’s a tip: hitting the button harder doesn’t increase your chances of winning – if anything, you’re more likely to be thrown out by goons of considerable girth. But aided by the on-fire Sheyi Ojo (I think I owe the Echo an apology), an all-out attacking Latics created much the better opportunities on goal… well, when they weren’t being flagged offside.

Once again, the ball hit the back of the Cardiff net with unstoppable force, this time from Waghorn. But once again, that flag shot up the moment he put foot to ball, killing the chance before it had even been initiated. At least we had the entertainment of a fantastic finish the likes of which we have rarely seen in a twilight campaign of teary-eyed nostalgia. You take what you can get, even when that’s immediately taken away… if you know what I mean.

Footballing osmosis: the time paradox

In the face of Cardiff’s stalling for time, Latics constructed a final opening through the impressive Kim Bo-Kyung. However, Marshall was equal to this low, bobbling effort, and denied the Latics midfielder just as he had done Harry Maguire ten minutes earlier. Much as Malky’s did at Reading, the Welsh side’s expert defensive game won out.

Broken clock
It’s no good, you can’t stop time with a hammer! (c)Audrius Meskauskas/Jahoe

Time, however, is the greatest enemy of all living things. I suggest you savour the last remaining drops of Wigan Athletic’s Golden Years while you have the opportunity – a decade from now, you’ll regret you were too disappointed to do so.

And hey, cheer up! We’re going to the seaside this weekend.

Match highlights courtesy Laticsofficial

Second opinion

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