Injury ravaged Wigan gave Chairman Dave Whelan a birthday present to remember producing an exciting enthralling performance to seal a last gasp victory with Jordi Gomez very much the hero.
Roberto Martinez was forced into several changes from the side which started against Liverpool last week with Jones, Gomez and Stam starting for Watson, Di Santo and Caldwell respectively.
Indeed such is the paucity of Wigan’s current resources that Di Santo and McArthur neither of whom were fully fit were included on the bench.
The game started off at pace with both sides seeming to attack at will with both defences constantly stretched, as Wigan with Jones and Beausejour to the fore and Reading with Tabb and McAnuff , the former looking to provide chances for Maloney, Kone and the latter for Latics old boy Roberts and Le Fondre .
The first real chance fell to Wigan with Beausejour, having his best game of the season broke down the left, firing over a superb cross which Kone rose unchallenged but headed wide of the near post when it seemed easier to score.
Wigan continued to press forwards with the silk and steel of Jones and McCarthy controlling the centre of midfield allowing Gomez and Maloney to push forwards.
Reading were no pushovers and Jason Roberts gave the new look back three, especially captain for the day Ramis a torrid time, constantly beating him for pace and in Le Fondre, Roberts had a willing foil constantly driving forwards towards the Wigan goal.
Kone had another good chance but his goal bound shot was scrambled off the line by Shorey. By this time the traditionally fatalistic Wigan fans were beginning to fear it wasn’t to be their day and Reading who looked dangerous from pieces seemed to confirm this when a needlessly conceded free kick by McCarthy just outside the area allowed Shorey to fire a cross in which young defender Morrison to rise unchallenged to head into the far corner with Al Habsi stranded.
Wigan continued to attack with pace and superb play by Gomez shortly before half time allowed him to ghost past two defenders but with only the keeper to beat he shot over the bar.
Half time came with amazingly some muted boos from some of the home crowd following an excellent performance which only lacked a goal.
Roberto Martinez opted to change things at half time, withdrawing Maloney and slotting Di Santo into the attacking left side position and this immediately gave more purpose to the Wigan attack as the big Argentinean constantly stretched the away defence with powerful running and intelligent passing. This substitution brought its reward after ten minutes of the half when Di Santo’s shot was blocked by Federici who couldn’t hold the shot and Gomez showing all his football intelligence and anticipation was following up to fire in the equaliser.
Reading continued to attack and when Tabb went over in the area following a challenge from Figueroa, claims of a penalty were waved away by Mr Webb. Replays show that Reading had a case and it may be that Tabb’s somewhat theatrical fall may have damaged his case.
Whatever the rationale Wigan took quick advantage when another superb cross from Beausejour saw Gomez meet the ball with a diving header and Wigan were ahead.
Both sides continued to attack and Wigan can consider themselves unlucky to have a goal disallowed when Beausejour was adjudged to have been marginally offside in the build up to the goal.
Reading continued to show the confidence of last week’s home win against Everton and were awarded a fluke equaliser, when Al Habsi who had just pulled off a superb one handed save from Le Fondre went to catch a spinning deflected ball which looked like it was going to drop into the net. He got both hands to it but somehow the ball spun free and crept over the line and Reading had an unlikely equaliser.
This should have been the time for the away side to shut up shop and play out the remaining minutes but whether due to confidence or naivety they continued to push forwards and Wigan made them pay when in the dying embers of the game, Kone broke and fed Gomez who crowned a wonderful afternoon with a hat trick which featured a left foot goal, a right foot goal and a header.
The result was cruel for a Reading side who fully contributed to an entertaining afternoon but Wigan with now nine players carrying knocks or worse will take great heart from the spirit shown to seal the three points.
Team and Player ratings
Al Habsi….7 one mistake but what a mistake
Boyce….7 looked more comfortable in a back three
Ramis….6 given a torrid time by Roberts, went off injured
Figueroa….6 clumsy tackle should have resulted in a penalty
Stam….7 attacked with gusto
Beausejour….8 his best game for the season
McCarthy….7 unsurprisingly booked.
Jones….8 controlled the midfield
Maloney….6 quiet half, withdrawn at half time
Kone….7 did everything but score
Gomez….9 and man of the match, showed his intelligent play in a frenetic game.
Di Santo….8 his substitution sparked the revival
Lopez….7 looked stronger than of late, did nothing wrong
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