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Wigan Athletic 0-0 QPR
Saturday 23rd April 2005

With enough plot twists to keep even the most demanding Eastenders fan interested, the battle for promotion is finally coming to the end of its convoluted journey.  It could be over next weekend, but chances are it’ll go down to the last day of the season, again!  Latics could have put one foot in the Premier League with the right result against a QPR side for whom this game was so meaningful their manager didn’t even bother to turn up.  The master of the mystifying metaphor bizarrely chose a weekend in Portugal to a Saturday in Wigan.

The game itself was like a resume of our season.  Some good sharp play early on, an inability to break down a lesser team and a host of wasted chances all contributed to this 0-0 draw, just as they’ve played their part in us not running away with the division.  It would be unfair to judge QPR on this performance; this wasn’t the team that mugged us at Loftus Road and injuries meant they were relying on a splattering of kids to keep them going and from early on it was clear that they weren’t here to have a go at us.

This was the first time most had seen the line up that Jewell put in place for the Cardiff and Leicester games, and to be fair it didn’t look as unbalanced as it sounded.  That said, I wonder how much more dangerous we would have looked with Mahon on the left rather than big Lee.  Unsurprisingly most of our threat came down the right hand side during the first half.  Bullard though isn’t a winger and any attempts to get past Padula were dealt with easily.  We’re used to seeing plenty of good opportunity come to nothing but Roberts, Omerod and McCulloch all had chances that we’ve come accustomed to celebrating.

Without a doubt we dominated the first half, without controlling much of it.  The second half was more of the same, for the last half hour or so we were camped in their half but without the constant threat you might expect from a team with the ‘best strike force outside of the premier league’ (copyright anyone who’s stuck for something to say about Latics).  Omerod had again blazed over the bar before being replaced by Ellington on about 70 minutes.  By that time Teale had already replaced Jarrett and was up to his usual, frustrating business. 

Neither of the substitutions really changed anything.  In the main we remained restricted to shots that needed to go through half of their team to get to the keeper.  The nearest we came was Roberts’ beautifully curled shot that had gone out for a throw in before anyone near me had realised that he hadn’t scored, I was on my fourth bounce.  The final big chance fell to Ellington after a beautiful one-two with himself (ok after he ballsed up his first touch) but, keeping with the tradition of the day, he blasted his shot over the bar.

The doom mongers would have this down as a terrible performance; that would be unfair, we played reasonably well, created chances without ever looking convincing.  If we keep on missing chances like this though we’ll struggle to make it without some help from Crewe and Brighton, then again if we get these chances again would we miss them?  Luckily Ipswich saw fit to share in our wastefulness, missing a shed load of chances to finish 1-1 with Leeds, the Makems were having none of it however and a 2-1 win over Leicester saw them promoted. 

So it’s on to Deepdale, we’ve certainly had the better results against the closest club to claim to have no rivalry with us recently, but they’ve not really had this much to play for.  All we can hope for is that Saturday’s game isn’t like the first half an hour of the home game or else we’ll all have reason to panic.

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