Wigan 0-2 Notts County: if we don’t mention it, maybe nobody will notice

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I so very nearly didn’t go to last night’s game, but around 4PM decided it might be a good idea to see us win for a change, you know, to keep my spirits up and that.

What tipped the scales was Roberto Martinez’ call to arms on the official website: pay fifteen quid to come and support the boys! On recent form, boy, did they need all the help they could get. As it happened, it wasn’t the fifteen quid that was disappointing, rather Latics’ inability to actually make the round white thing go in the big rectangle thing.

Of course, the longer it went on, the more frustrated you could feel everyone becoming. County occasionally posed a threat, but then with our leaky defence you’d have expected the odd shot to slip through against any sort of opposition: in fact I predicted a 3-1 or 4-1 win for this game, and it could so easily could have been if we’d have started with the same team we did on Saturday. Without Hugo Rodallega and the experience of a man who can actually score a goal given the opportunity, our attack lacked that edge. Sure there were some good passing movements, but this was a fourth-tier team for goodness’ sake – you should expect to be running rings round them. And we did, for the most part.

I don’t think it was a case of not wanting to score, but for all our possession and dominance we just weren’t able to penetrate County’s resolute last line of defence. Yes, we made Schmeichel work, but not hard enough. Remember, this guy’s a class keeper way above the division he’s playing in, and no doubt in a couple of years’ time (providing financial problems don’t rear their ugly head) he’ll be in the Championship and playing at a level his skill merits. Perhaps we were too complacent, but if this were Stojkovic you would have had to say he had a great game. Man of the match, even. Good show, Kasper.

What we lacked, aside from a goalscorer, was that bit of luck to spark off some confidence. An early goal and we could well have run riot as many expected us to. Even as late as the 65th minute you thought the floodgates could open at any minute, if the rate at which the shots were raining in on the County goalmouth was anything to go by.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen.

Latics emerge from the half time break visibly chipper and ready to rumble. Another chance saved by the goalie. Another one just shoots by the post. Caldwell puts the ball in the net only to be ruled offside. Only a matter of time, we thought.

But as the minutes wore on, you could see the mistakes start to creep into Latics’ game: whereas at one point Titus Bramble was dealing with absolutely everything that came his way, he inexplicably stepped over a pass and allowed Notts County in on goal. The big man did make up for the mistake — probably his only mis-step in the whole game to that point — and we got away with it on that occasion.

Very soon after, we weren’t so lucky. On Saturday and Wednesday, corners proved our downfall – care to guess how we conceded on Tuesday? A penalty. Nah, only joking: the ball was bundled in at the back post from a corner, and somehow the Nottingham side found themselves 1-0 up against a Premiership team that was, by all accounts, outplaying them.

Also like the previous two games, we were visibly rattled by the goal. A second just minutes later — via another corner, or at least a set piece  if I recall correctly — and just like that, we’d gone from probable winners to definite losers in the space of about 200 seconds. Speechless. Once again, Wigan never really recovered, and though we threatened on one or two occasions following, it was far too late. Not even Hugo Rodallega, who entered to fray in place of Emmerson Boyce with five minutes left on the clock, could get us out of this mess.

The abiding memory of this game for me, however, has to be Jason Scotland’s miss around the 30 minute mark. Now, to squander a one-on-one opportunity is unfortunate, to miss two is forgiveable. But in the last three games, I can think of at least three such chances where all Scotty had to do was beat the keeper – on all three occasions he’s failed.

A nice passing movement found Jase clear on goal with just Schmeichel to beat, and any other striker you’d expect to score. This was, however, Jason Scotland – a man whose finishing touch has all but deserted him since he left Swansea. Oh well, at least he made the keeper save the ball, which is more than can be said for his previous two such chances, which resulted in the serious injury of a fan in row CC, seat number 12 (a geeky joke for the hardcore fans out there).

It’s enough to drive you batty. Still, Saturday could well be a different story, what with our twin signings of Moses n’ Moreno — which will hopefully be more potent than that ever-so-popular partnership of Cho ‘n’ Go(mez) — in the frame for that no doubt up for grabs striker’s position.

You could say going out in the FA Cup Fourth Round to Notts County is a backward step from previous seasons, and it probably is. However, it’s worth looking to the long term – Wigan’s second string team has never been that strong. Remember Grimsby or Canvey Island? Well, I prefer not to, and I’m sorry if I invoked any repressed memories.

Would a cup run keep Wigan in the Premiership? No, but it would have given our second-stringers a chance of first team action. In the short term, then, not too much damage has been done – after all, maybe we should be keeping our players fit for the crucial tests to come in the next few months. In the long term, however, maybe the effects will prove to be more severe, but let’s not dwell on that too much right now.

Thankfully, the media are still up in arms over the John Terry ‘controversy’ (yawn) so we’ve been spared back page humiliation on this occasion. Don’t think I could have stood another of those anyway, not after the Tottenham ‘incident’. So, if we draw a line under it and move on, perhaps we can all continue our lives as normal and pretend it never happened.

Fat chance o’ that.

Dan, Jesus Was a Wiganer

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