12th Man – The shootout season

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Keith Hill eh? When you hear people trot out the line that there’s no characters in the game anymore, they’ve obviously never taken a look at Keith Hill. The man is completely barmy.

However, let’s give him credit where it’s due. He has built a side at Rochdale on a tiny budget and low crowds capable of getting in the top half of this division and they were relatively pleasing on the eye up until the sending off as well.

Yet the art of spin is alive and well and after the game, Hill chose not to focus on the red card that his own player got for lashing out at Jason Pearce but the tackle that preceded it. He also chose not to mention the fact that Latics could have had three penalties before that, two for blatant handballs in the box and a trip on Colclough.

From our perspective, I’m not sure that the extra man made a blind bit of difference, it was a tight game beforehand and it was always going to remain so. We took off a centre half as there was no-one to mark and Hill countered by throwing Grant Holt on.

Ah yes, big Grant Holt! I’m sure I was not the only one for whom this game was overshadowed by a dark cloud in the form of the return of the burly Cumbrian but it shouldn’t have been that way at all. In some senses, I think Monday represented closure in that respect.

He came on, put himself about a bit, kind of resembled a passing impression of being a footballer; he got a bit of stick but also a bit of support. And he didn’t score an equaliser – phew! With any luck we can put that whole episode to bed now and (sort of) wish him well for the future.

So that scrappy 1-0 win puts us in a healthy position with seven games to go whereas Walsall are facing the pressurised “going second in a penalty shootout competition after the other team has just scored” position.

We now only have to match their results to stay where we are but by winning we can guarantee it. I don’t think we can take any game for granted out of the last seven but I’ll take 7 more scrappy 1-0 wins in a heartbeat right now….style would be nice but substance is miles more important at this stage!

Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man Column on Friday 1st April 2016

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