It’s impossible to say which of the 37 goals, scored by Latics this year, was the one that kept us up in the end.  The obvious candidate would be Unsworth’s penalty but it could just as easily go to one of the few goals that didn’t matter, the fourth against City, Landzaat’s consolation at the Madjeski and Baines’ penalty at Old Trafford stand out as ones where might have stopped trying by the time they were scored.        

Equally there is an argument that it wasn’t the goals that were scored that kept us up but the ones that weren’t conceded.  Not only does this throw extra emphasis on Chris Kirkland’s early season form but makes Jewell’s tactics at Anfield seem an absolute necessity.  They may have been a source of great frustration at the time but looking back the cautious approach played an important part in the end of season reckoning.

Of course the context of a goal rarely takes precedence in a goal of the season competition and we’re no different here.  Despite a season with more troughs than peaks there are still plenty of contenders for this award and we’ve already seen at least two Latics efforts feature in polls for the whole of the Premier League looking at people’s selections for this award, maybe we should have had more. 
Our panel are obviously spending too much time together; as yet again we’ve got a run away winner on this one.  All but one of our [cough] experts went for the same goal as first choice.  The odd one out going for the team effort that ended up with McCulloch’s goal at Bolton. 

You won’t find the first of our also rans in the record books, coming in the rained off game at Vicarage Road.  A meat turn and shot to the far post that should have been Heskey’s sixth of the season.  Next up is a fine effort from Camara, again on the turn, lobbing the Charlton keeper from the edge of the box.  My personal favourite of the goals that didn’t make it is Valencia’s effort against City.  Our final close, but no cigar moment sees Heskey again proving why he, perhaps, should scope more goals with a superb finish to get things going in the 4-0 drubbing that nearly saw the back of Stuart Pearce.

Now that the appetisers are out of the way we can move onto to the main event and the top three goals selected by our ‘independent’ panel. 

Admirers of young Mr Baines will be pleased; two of his efforts have made the top three.  Yet again though he has been denied the top spot.  In the end it was even Stevens between his two goals in the voting stakes and your mild mannered website administrator had to adjudicate. 

I’m not a great fan of free kicks in competitions like this, okay so it’s not quite the same as a penalty but the keeper is at a disadvantage and maybe they should get an award of their own next season.  My favourite this year would have been Taylor’s against Newcastle, but that said our third place goal was in that ‘it will have to be something special to beat the keeper from here’ category.

It’s early doors, against a team that has clearly got the upper hand on you and you get a free kick 30 odd yards out.  The temptation must be there to employ the big boys, loft a ball into the crowd and play the percentages.  Not for Bainesy, fresh from hitting a stormer past the German U21 keeper, he’s going to have a go.  Despite Scholes being all of a yard off the ball when he hits it, the shot flies straight and hard leaving Van der Saar with little to do but flap.  Of course United went on to stuff Latics but for a little time, at least, we were allowed to dream.

Baines’ next goal is a one of those moments where everything goes right, the sort of chance that invariably ends up sliced for a throw in leading to the player hanging his head in the face of derision from the fans.  It came on one of the increasingly rare occasions where the lad was able to get forward in open play and in a game that was more akin to one of those lightweight Thai boxing matches than a football game featuring a side challenging for European honours.

It’s Latics’ turn to be landing the punches but the attack seems to have come to no end as the ball spins out to the left back who is almost certain to control it and start the build up again.  Again, Baines astounds the crowd and opposition by taking a first time shot that has enough pace, swerve and dip to leave the England keeper stranded.  Robinson might have dived, but from the moment of contact he stood no chance, another lead that would eventually evaporate, but a real contender for goal of the season that seems to have been over looked by most pundits.

If you believe the opinion of our judges the winner was a no brainer, a stonewall goal of the season.   We had heard plenty about Denny Landzaat’s goal scoring ability before he signed, but had seen precious little evidence until the previous week at Reading.  His goal there and this one were polls apart in style and should have been in terms of impact.  Whether his effort at Arsenal sticks in the memory because of what followed I don’t know, but it was a goal that should have won us the game and one that deserved to.

Following good work from Jackson and Aghahowa, the Gunners failed in their attempts to clear the danger.   With Landzaat still a distance out, no one bothered to close him down, he wasn’t going to shoot from there.  Oh, yes he was.  On first glance the goal appeared to be your common, everyday 30-ish yard screamer, and that might have been enough to take the plaudits on its own.  Closer examination shows a fair bit of technique to put deceptive pace and plenty of late swing on the ball. 

Not quite enough to make up for the missed penalty at Fulham, but good enough for us all the same.

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