Latics 0-2 Portsmouth
Saturday 20th October 2005

I’m not quite sure why I did it, but just before I left for the ground I checked on http://www.liveonsat.com/ to see which foreign channel the game was on.  I should have taken more notice of the result.  It was no surprise to see that, yet again, we were on a channel that only two Albanian sheep farmers can receive, but how apt that Gjerj and his ewes would have been tuning in to Latics’ latest farce on ‘Show Comedy Extra”, only this would have ranked lower than “Not going out” in the laughter stakes.

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Ok, so that might not actually be possible, if only in a ‘if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry sort’ of way, but this stunk.   If it wasn’t bad enough that Latics showed just enough of their ability to justify why Match of the Day always put them on last, they did it with about the same amount of heart that they showed in the Bolton and West Ham games last year.

Such was the ineptitude here that it just couldn’t be chalked up as a bad day at the office.  As much as international breaks can serve to throw the form book out of the window (if that’s the case this time around) then the form book was shortly followed by whichever coaching manual Chris Hutchings has been using.  

For much of this game, neither side looked to have the guile, gumption or desire to take the three points, but Happy ‘arry’s boys were slightly slicker and more likely to manage the win.  Even so it took a lapse of concentration from the Latics back line for them to get their foothold.

We’re told that it’s difficult for centre-halves to play against a lone striker; it’s all too easy to end up in a bit of ‘to you’, ‘to me’ style confusion, apparently.  Even so, Rotherham’s favourite sons would have managed to keep an eye on the only man in the 18 yard box, as a left wing cross came in, but not Bramble and Granqvist.  Benjani surely not believing his luck as he was left alone for an easy volley.

ImageFrom that point on there was only one winner (no scrub that, there was only ever one winner to start with) but those Wiganers who joined the mass exodus missed one of those goals that you don’t see every week, unless of course you watch under 11s football.  If you’ve ever wondered about the folly of playing a winger at left back to support a midfielder who, can’t/won’t defend, then your answer was here.  

A 50 yard run from right back, with the whole Latics team backing off him presented Glen Johnson with his first goal for 3 years, and one that will continue to embarrass us all season, with regular showings on all manner of highlight shows.

Was it all bad?  Actually, yes it was.  Barring a Scharner header that struck the post on two minutes there was nowt in this for Latics.  The back line did alright, and would have won plaudits had they kept it up for the full 90.  But they didn’t so they don’t.

On paper, the midfield should have been alright, with three of the first choice four starting, but with Koumas looking crocked and disinterested, Brown embroiled in petty squabbles with, one time Latics targets, Diop and Kranjcar and Scharner looking less like a footballer with every passing minute, we we’re onto a loser right from kick off.  Captain for the day, Landzaat at least looked like he wanted to play the game, but with no support he stood as much chance as an Everton penalty shout in the last minute of injury time.

I’m not even prepared to discuss the forward line.  They might have got nowt off the midfield, but they weren’t exactly asking for it either.  All we can hope is that the weight of expectancy doesn’t sit too heavily on Heskey’s fifth metatarsal, the last thing we need now is a relapse.

Pompey deserved their win and even though they were as bad as us, on the pitch, for a large part of the game, the same can’t be said off it.  Free coaches and £15 tickets had got them all excited and for the third game on the bounce they managed to show us up for passion, volume and sheer stamina.  I take the argument that crowds mean squat as far as the league table goes, but the South Coast contingent in Saturday’s deserved the points.

I want to finish on a positive note, but I’m struggling.  Things look pretty dire at the moment and there’s probably as little as 90 minutes before Chris Hutchings’ credit with the fans runs out, but he’s still got time to turn it around as long as he makes a start on it soon.

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