You take a bit of time off and all hell breaks loose. It’s over a month since we last spoke and a mixed bag of results have finally seen Latics creep past the 50 point marker but at the same time fall away from the race for a European place. As we approach the final game of the season a top half of the table finish is looking unlikely and agents have already started playing the sort of games that saw Ellington leave the club in the summer whilst speculation is rife over which players we’ll fail to finalise contracts with once the transfer window reopens.
We’ll leave the rumours and recrimination for another day and instead we’ll take a look at the six games that took us up to our ‘show-piece’ finale and the library.
It’s safe to say that Mr P Dowd (Stoke) won’t be featuring on Jewell’s Christmas card list this year. I can’t recall a referee that has been so consistently inconsistent, whilst being totally wrong, so often. Yes this was the man that did not allow Alan Shearer’s goal at the JJB earlier in the season, not because the Saint of St James’s clobbered De Zeeuw to get his header in, but because the ball only crossed the line a little bit.
The same man who failed to spot the three penalties that Latics should have had at Highbury in the League Cup semi final but was quick to spot the one that Arsenal could have been given, and of course gave it. Both teams would have had just cause to moan about his performance had the other won this one, but the assault that he allowed for the equaliser was probably the worst of a bad bunch of decisions.
The FA’s decision not to punish Jewell for calling Mr Dowd ‘incompetent’, suggests that they in some way agree with him so presumably he won’t be back next season. If he is then we can all call him crap, safe in the knowledge that the people in charge of the game feel the same way too.
Another draw, another lead lost. To be honest, Birmingham were a poor side, albeit one with a few good players and one that could have been dispatched early on. As it was they made more of the scrappy first half. The second half promised more, following Johansson’s early goal, but it deteriorated from then on in and there was a feeling of inevitability about the equaliser. The draw gave Birmingham (false) hope of escaping relegation, but did little to enhance Latics’ 2006. Whilst the crowd of just over 18,000 gave some indication of just where our season was heading.
Newcastle (lost 3-1)
To be honest they owed us this one. Latics offered little resistance to the Geordie onslaught, especially after losing both centre-halves in the first 20 minutes. At that stage they were 1-0 up, Bullard finally managing to land a free kick in the net rather than the stand. To be fair it was a superb goal but with McCulloch joining De Zeeuw and Jackson on the sidelines it was always going to be a case of fighting a losing battle.
Villa (won 3-2)
I missed this one; instead I had a not at all stressful evening preparing to go to the maternity ward at the infirmary. Apparently there was a decent atmosphere and both teams responded with an open game, that Latics had the better of. Our only home win of 2006 featured another superb goal from Jimmy Bullard, was he trying to impress someone?
Fulham (lost 1-0)
This was one of those games that shouldn’t happen. Latics had something like 60% of possession and had more than double the chances that Fulham had, but still came away with nothing. In fact they came away with less than they started with as in the days following this Jimmy Bullard became a Fulham player. If you needed any confirmation that the second half of the season just wasn’t going for us, her it was.
Portsmouth (lost 2-1)
Conspiracy theories abound as Latics (and Henri Camara in particular) tear strips of Pompey in the first half, only to come out for the second looking like Harry Redknapp had done the half time team talk. Yet again a team’s waste of space striker gets his first goal against us and in a double blow Teale is sent off for deliberate’ handball in the penalty area. The final whistle brought a pitch invasion that neither police nor club seemed that bothered about, as Portsmouth survive relegation.
And there you have it. All that is left for the season is to see whether or not we finish in the top half of the table, oh and the little matter of our part in who qualifies for the Champions League. No doubt when it comes to that game we’ll be brushed under the carpet, just there to make up the numbers. Then again, wasn’t that what we were supposed to be doing in the league? You just never know.
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