How do you put the last couple of weeks in to words? Words won’t really do the events of April any justice.
Following the Hull game where Latics were so cruelly robbed of a valuable point on the road Paul Cook’s side were truly looking down the barrel. The turn around from that night has been nothing short of amazing.
I was over in Germany for the Norwich game, the Fox und Hound was our home for the afternoon and as kick-off approached the nerves kicked in. Every single permutation was whizzing through my mind ahead of that match, but never in my wildest thoughts did I see Latics staying up with two games to go.
If the result against Norwich was a surprise what transpired against Leeds was out of this world stuff.
On a beautiful spring day we travelled over to the Pennines hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. That feeling of expecting the worst only increased as Cedric Kipre was incorrectly sent off. It was no surprise to see Leeds take the lead a few moments later.
So it went on, Wigan Athletics’ retched away form. No way back from this my Dad mused at the side of me – ‘they’ll score a ponful’. I couldn’t disagree as wave after wave of Leeds attacks threatened to put the ten men of Wigan to the sword.
But then we got a goal on the stroke of half-time, a wonderfully worked goal from the impressive Kal Naismith and Lee Evans who found Gavin Massey racing in to space. The celebrations were something else and clearly gave the lads confidence. But the fact remained as the whistle blew for half-time that this was the side with the worst away form in the football league, up against the side with the best home form and they had a one man advantage.
Surely we wouldn’t manage to hold out for a point? Every time Leeds went forward they were resisted by a Wigan side literally putting their bodies on the line – with Christian Walton in fantastic form in the Wigan goal.
On the rare occasions Latics managed to launch an attack we looked like scoring and as the ball was nodded down by Leon Clarke in to the path of Gavin Massey that’s just what we did. Surely this couldn’t be right? Surely we weren’t leading at Elland Road.
34,000 Leeds fans were silenced as a small part of Lancashire screamed for joy. Now came the hard bit, half an hour more to see the game out. The referee missed a blatant penalty for Latics as Reece James was hacked down which would have made it easier, whilst James also hit the bar but hang on the lads did and the heroes of Elland Road danced for joy in front of 800 Wiganer’s dancing for joy.
Maybe it was written in the stars again for this very special club of ours? As last year the wonderful walk for Joseph organised by Martin Tarbuck and joined by over 75 special people had provided inspiration for our lads. It may have been promotion in the sun at Fleetwood but it felt just as important to celebrate survival in the sun at Leeds.
Joseph has provided such inspiration for Latics over his life and I’m sure he was at the forefront of the players minds as they shocked the footballing world on Friday afternoon.
Of course survival hadn’t been sealed against Leeds, but a massive step forward had been made. No it would fall to our old rivals Preston and a date with destiny on Easter Monday. The change in atmosphere was notable ahead of the Preston match, it felt like a weight had been lifted and Latics went on to play exactly like that.
A 2-0 win where Latics totally dominated against their Lancashire rivals, coupled with results elsewhere meant that Wigan for the first time in five seasons would start a consecutive season in the Championship.
As difficult as this season has been – be it for the away form, be it the individual mistakes, be it for not taking our chances when it really mattered Wigan Athletic neigh Paul Cook’s Wigan Athletic turned it on when it mattered.
He’s faced a lot of criticism lately has Paul Cook, some valid. Some not so valid but I think we can all agree he has done what was expected of him and it is some achievement to keep Wigan Athletic in such a competitive league.
The key now is to progress next season and after the experience of this season there is no man better placed for that job than Paul Cook.
Well done Paul, to your staff and all of the players. It’s a job well done and Latics can truly make it a party atmosphere in the next two games. Who would have said that after the Hull game two weeks ago? Football – it’s a funny old game.
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