Saturday 19th March 2011
The Premier League
Wigan Athletic 2-1 Birmingham City
Hugo Rodallega and Connor Sammon were left on the bench at the start of today’s match which in truth was a must win game, Wigan had an early corner and a Caldwell was header easily saved by Foster at the start.
Then Birmingham took over, with the excuse for a referee Probert giving the first of many soft free kicks, on six minutes after clearing the initial free kick the ball came back in and Liam Ridgewell slotted home in acres of space from a possibly offside position.
A feeling of doom seemed to grip the players and supporters with Latics seemingly unable to string two passes together, Birmingham were having corners and free kicks but fortunately Habsi saved the only effort on goal in this period.
Then on 25 minutes Watson played a great through ball to the excellent Boyce who fired in from the right, Foster fumbled the shot/cross and Tom Cleverly levelled it at 1-1.
The same move nearly worked again, Boyce’s cross being put just over this time.
The home side were growing in confidence but it was the visitors who had the last chance of the half from another soft free kick, Larsson hit the bar with his effort.
Half time 1-1 and Wigan needed a spark up front .
The second half started slowly, Birmingham got yet another free kick and McCarthy got a yellow as City seemed to want to waste time, the kick was blocked but a quick Latics break came to nothing.
After another Birmingham free kick Wigan broke again, this time N,Zogbia played DiSanto in who was pulled down inside the area, however referee Probert blew but decided to give a free kick for an earlier foul on N’Zogbia which Watson took straight into Foster’s grateful arms.
Latics were having lots of pressure and on sixty three minutes credit must be given to Roberto Martinez for a double substitution, Hugo Rodallega and Connor Sammon coming on for Moses and DiSanto.
NZogbia went on a mazy run but fired over after another Birmingham free kick was headed wide.
Sammon and Rodellaga were creating havoc, with McCarthy & Sammon both going close in a mad scramble, could a winner be found?
On 75 minutes Rodallega won a tussle for the ball and lobbed Foster, the ball hit the bar and crept over the line, as we celebrated that man Probert ruled it out for a push but Wigan were not done yet.
McCarthy shot over and as we went into a frantic period of injury time the ball fell to Figueroa who hammered the ball home right footed from the edge of the box to make it 2-1.
Something appeared to be thrown from the Birmingham end at Ail Habsi as Latics then hung on a fully deserved three points.
Wigan Athletic, Al Habsi, Boyce, G. Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Watson, McCarthy, Cleverley, Moses (Sammon, 64), N’Zogbia (Diame, 93) & Di Santo (Rodallega, 64)
Unused substitutes, Pollitt, Gohouri, Gomez & Stam
Goalscorers, Cleverly(25) & Figueroa(92)
Booked, Alcaraz, Figueroa & Moses
Birmingham City, Foster, Carr, Johnson, Jiranek (Davies, 15), Ridgewell, Larsson, Ferguson, Gardner, Mutch (Martins, 64) Beausejour (Bentley, 59) & Jerome
Unused substitutes, Doyle, Murphy, Phillips & Parnaby
Goalscorer, Ridgewell (6)
Referee, Lee Probert
“Figueroa is an outstanding footballer and sometimes as a defender he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
In the past we’ve seen him score a screamer at Stoke City and although he doesn’t score many they’re always special.
I was pleased to see him show that understanding of when to go forwards and support the attack and that strike was a real reward for his performance and the professionalism he shows on a daily basis.
We showed good composure throughout the second-half whereas we couldn’t quite get into those dangerous positions during the first 45 minutes due to Birmingham’s experience and work-rate,” said Martinez.
But for 70 minutes it was a real joy to watch a group of players giving their lives to win a football match for Wigan Athletic.
We keep repeating these moments and it’s great for the players and fans to share these moments.
We’re developing a real football philosophy here at Wigan Athletic and when the ball hit the back of the net I’ve never heard such emotion inside the DW Stadium before and we need to keep those emotions running until the end of the season.”
I am full of pride after that performance because it was a difficult game and we knew beforehand of the importance of the three points and the importance of the occasion.
The game didn’t start well for us going behind early on, but despite a little bit of anxiety the players kept playing their game and got the rewards through a fantastic equalising goal.
When you look back at that goal it symbolises what we aim to produce with the possession game we play.
Then you see the character and determination from the team to make the second-half so one-sided and full of concentration to limit a dangerous Birmingham side and create chance after chance ourselves.
Sometimes you feel as though the opportunity isn’t going to come, then you get two great opportunities from your left-back and it goes to show how each and every player wants to play a part in our success.
That was the overall feeling for today’s game, we had a fully fit squad and even Hugo Rodallega, who couldn’t train through the week with an injury, was desperate to be out there playing his part and that’s the kind of spirit we have at this football club.
But the most pleasing aspect was that despite the importance of the occasion and despite the score-line a young side kept doing the right thing and playing the right way.
They relied upon their talent and were arrogant in the right way for long spells.
They all deserve the credit they’ll receive after the game and next we’ll dust ourselves down ready for the next game against Tottenham Hotspur.
It was also good to get that result for the fans who took the atmosphere onto a different level in the second-half, and they can be proud having seen the club take another step towards achieving our aim.
We said throughout the week how we needed their voice and support and as always they were there for us when we needed them most, and I can’t wait for that to be re-created against Spurs in a couple of weeks.”
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