An early goal from man of the match Chris McCann followed by a wonder strike from Ben Watson saw holders Wigan progress virtually unnoticed by the media into the quarter final of the F.A.cup
Wigan arrived at Cardiff on the back of a giant killing feat over Crystal Palace in the last round but being the holders was still not enough to be deemed worthy of a televised appearance as they took their place int he alst 16.
Wigan were forced into changes with Waghorn and Maynard being deemed ineligible due tot he terms of their loan agreements and Barnett being given a well earned rest with former Cardiff target Ivan Ramis earning a return in the centre of the defence. With James McArthur out with a virus there was a recall for Espinoza and also starting returns for Fortune and Gomez.
Wigan roared on by a raucous good natured following of around 1,660 fans started evry much on the front foot and McManaman created a couple opf good half chances following attacking runs down the right wing.
For Cardiff most of their good play came from diminutive Norwegian Mats Daehli who gave the Wigan midfield a testing time constantly roaming all over the pitch in search of an opening
Wigan gave warning of things to come when Watson fired a lovely ball from the left hand side of the pitch to the feet of James Perch, the right wing back broke down the right using McManaman as a foil he tried to score but his powerful shot fizzed over the bar.
This should have sent warning signals to the hosts about Wigan’s prowess but if it did they went unheeded as a free kick from Gomez partially cleared back to Gomez who chipped the ball over to McCann who fired home the opener sending the travelling arm wild with delight.
This gave the home side a wake up call and they poured forwards looking for the equaliser with Zaha and Daehli giving Perch and Beausejour plenty of work to do.
From one of these attacks the ball bobbled around in the area, three Wigan defenders tried and failed to clear the ball which eventually fell to Campbell who fired through a morass of bodies past the unsighted Al Habsi for the equalising goal.
This sparked a further ten minutes of Cardiff pressure with Wigan looking like they were hanging on for half time and Campbell blazed over the bar when he should have at least troubled Al Habsi’s goal.
Just when it looked like that the sides would go in level, Fortune who ploughed a tireless furrow up front on his own all afternoon was fouled outside the area. Gomez and Watson stood over the ball although the position of the left footed Gomez suggested that Watson would be taking the free kick. This was incorrect,( sort of) as a little flick sideways from Gomez tee’d up Watson and his powerful shot fizzed into the bottom corner of the net seeming to not go above a few inches above the ground sending the Wigan fans into higher states of ecstasy.
Cala who had given the free kick away almost made amends but his shot was well saved by Al Habsi for a corner which the Wigan defence dealt with.
Cardiff started the second half on the front foot with Wigan defending deep with Ramis and McCann absolutely outstanding in their defensive duties and McCann also looking forceful going forwards.
Wigan’s best chance of the second half fell to the big Irishman when chasing a seemingly lost cause attempted to flick the ball from the dead ball line close to the post and almost found its way into the net with Marshall having to pull off an acrobatic save.
Cardiff had two fantastic chances but both were well saved by Al Habsi, the first from Daehli and the second from former Skelmersdale United player Craig Noone whose shot was only seen at the last second by Al Habsi but the big Omani saved well at full stretch
Cardiff continued to pile on the pressure but the Wigan side looked composed and organised and very fit as opposed to earlier int he season and their defending enabled them to see out the game and secure a place in the quarter final of the cup which they celebrated with their tremendous following in the far corner.
Team Line up and Player Ratings.
Al Habsi…..8, can’t kick for toffee but some fantastic saves.
Perch……..7, attacked well down the right and defended well against Zaha
Boyce……7, read the game well.
Ramis…….8, immense in defence and a cheeky long range shot a la Figueroa.
Beausejour…..6, quiet in attack, worked hard against Daehli in defence.
McManaman…….7, a potent attacking force, faded when switched to the left, withdrawn.
McCann………..9, Awesome, MOM
Gomez………6, not his most effective game, withdrawn.
Watson…….7.5, a superb goal, withdrawn injured.
Espinoza……8, covered every blade of grass.
Fortune…….7, ran himself into the ground.
McEachran…..6 , an unfussy performance.
McClean…..6.5, nearly scored late on.
Crainey…..6, little chance to influence proceedings
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