You reach a point in any season where you’re faced with a run of games that are clearly more than a sum of their parts. So playing five of the top six over the next seven games equals ‘where’s our next point coming from?’ rather than a festival of football or cavalcade of stars. There are no such problem for Latics as they run into three games that, individually or as a group should carry enough juice to even geta rugby mon drooling. But everything in its place and there’ll be room for Stoke and Bolton on another day.
This weekend belonged to Steve Bruce and his new bunch of cyber-bickerers as Sunderland had us round for a bit of a ‘too good to go down’ relegation battle. Sod that “it’s Derby weekend on Sky, in HD and crappy tele too” malarkey, the Stadium of Light was where it was at especially if you wanted potential for managerial handbags, liberally sprinkled with midfield ‘hardmen’ trying to make a point about one another. Actually, Keyes-y and the boys probably did right with avoiding this one, as it never quite lived up to my mental billing anyway.
Not that it was a bad game, just not quite as blood and thunder as its deemed status as a must win for both sides might have suggested. It was in equal parts scrappy, dull and good to watch and nowhere near as competitive as the nine bookings made it sound. Basically it was a game of two sides, focussing on their own game and trying to get the basics right, understandable when you consider the recent form of both.
So not a spectacle, and for Latics it took a familiar pattern as a shaky start lead to a period of dominance that wasn’t quite taken advantage of followed by a spell where they could/should have lost it, topped off with a bit of end to end stuff at the close. This week’s ‘not got their shooting boots’ culprits were James McCarthy and Charles N’Zogbia so we’ll give them a break, but N’Zogbia’s miss in particular will have taken some explaining on the way home.
The worst thing about the sort of form Latics are experiencing is the Sheer waste. Last week it was all that pressure and chances after the break, here it was Mohammed Diame’s first goal on Latics colours (if you can afford me the luxury of calling “Steward Orange” Latics colours) and s fair corker it was too. It was almost like watching the midfielder that we’ve been missing all season as Momo capitalised on a lack of concentration in the middle of the park, burst into the box and lashed a proper ‘take that you f***ing beauty’ shot past Craig Gordon.
I’ve been looking for one of our midfield to start taking games by the scruff of the neck; hopefully this is the start of us seeing a Diame that’s going to do just that.
There was no doubting that Sunderland’s main threat would come from their forward line, but despite his £10m price tag and 14 goals, Darren Bent again failed to impress against Latics and it was left to that big lump up front to do the business. Well actually, I used to think of Kenwyne Jones like that, but after Saturday, I’m not so sure.
Not that I’m saying that I’ve had a moment of revelation, I still can’t see why Liverpool would want to pay £10m for him, but I can sort of see why Roy Keane paid £5m. He was strong, powerful led the line well and took his chance when it came. In short everything you might have wanted Jason Scotland to be but he hasn’t been. There was a moment in the first half where he just swatted Hendry Thomas aside in order to hit a deflected shot onto the post and I suspect that Bramble was too scared to pick him up properly for the goal.
So one a piece and probably a fair result, not that you’d have known if you paid any attention to the media. It was all about how disastrous the whole thing was for Steve Bruce, after all it’s pretty bad to be losing to that are a massive two points behind you (with a game in hand, don’t forget that game in hand, I’m clinging to it), especially when it’s Wigan Athletic.
Yes, we’ve had our low spots this season, but we’ve had our highs yes we’ve been inconsistent but we’re just looking for a solid base to build from. Before kick-off the only edge that Sunderland had was their home advantage and when you’re on a ten game run since your last win, it’s not that hard to lose the fans’ will and although Latics will not doubt be happier with the draw overall, Sunderland should be grateful that they didn’t get further behind before their equaliser.
Of course, what both sides need to do is take what positives they can from the game and move on, because in Stoke and Portsmouth both face games on Tuesday night that they really should be looking to win. Failure on either part will be much more troubling than a draw between two sides that have always been close over recent years.
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