Wigan Athletic once again produced an end of season run which secured their premier league status for an eighth successive season and in so doing condemned their hapless neighbours Blackburn to the ignominy of relegation.
Once again Roberto Martinez had the luxury of a fully fit squad to choose from and unsurprisingly he opted to keep faith with the eleven who had performed so admirably in recent weeks.
On a night more suited to ducks rather than chickens ( more of that later)Wigan started the brighter passing the ball with aplomb on a very wet pitch, constantly looking for a pass to create the opening goal. The only criticism was that they seemed to be playing one too many passes when close to the Rovers’ goal and both Di Santo and Maloney should have done better early on.
Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi’s first action was not to pick the ball out of the net or to clear the ball up field but to creep around his net and with the aid of Rovers’ Yakubu, catch the chicken released onto the pitch by the home support. This light hearted if inappropriate action should have lessened the tension but with a total contrast in fans behaviour, with the home fans at odds with the manager and owners and venting their spleens individually and collectively throughout the game and the away fans constant singing and chanting support for their club, owner , manager and players, the match was tense and error ridden especially from Blackburn as Wigan tried to use the width with Emerson Boyce constantly raiding down the right, looking to cross for Di Santo and Moses.
Wigan’s best chance of the first half came from one of these forays when to the amazement of everyone in the ground, Victor Moses headed the ball unchallenged past Robinson in the Rovers’ goal and across the face of the goal when it seemed easier to score. Di Santo also shot weekly at Robinson but at the other end the chicken was responsible for making Al Habsi work the hardest such was the paucity of the home side’s attack.
The second half was a dour affair for the most part, short on quality football from both sides which was largely due to the monsoon which seemed to settle directly over Ewood Park but there were a couple of nerve wracking moments when first Wigan failed to clear a goal mouth scramble resulting in the ball being cleared off the line and secondly when Boyce appeared to catch Hoilett but referee Mark Clattenberg waved away the penalty claim, thus levelling up the fact that he had booked Moses for diving in the other penalty area a few minutes earlier when he seemed to be bundled over.
Maloney who was a live wire again all night should have done better when he headed wide of the goal following good work by Moses and it seemed a draw was on the cards until late on when a corner from Beausejour was met by Alcaraz and his header nestled in the corner of the net beating the despairing dive of Robinson and thus condemning Rovers to relegation.
The final whistle brought a muted pitch invasion with some Blackburn players racing off the pitch at a greater pace than they had shown in a rudderless and dispirited ninety minutes .Wigan deserved the victory and with it a chance to test themselves against the best for another season.
Al Habsi, Figueroa, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Boyce, Beausejour, McCarthy, McArthur, Maloney, Moses, Di Santo ( Sammon)
Man of the Match
James McArthur…. Was absolutely tenacious and resolute in midfield.
Photograph courtesy of Bernard Platt and Wigan Athletic FC
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