Latics 0-0 Fulham
Saturday 7th February 2009
What do you expect? It’s Wigan v Fulham, it’s hardly likely that the players will forget where they are and suddenly start off like they’re in a Derby at the San Siro, or somewhere like that. Are they? No, it’s February, it’s snowing and you’ve got two teams who aren’t really in the business of going for the three points in this type of game.
Not that the points wouldn’t be helpful, just that the alternative is just not acceptable, in so many ways.
Mostly because neither team is technically safe yet. Losing to a team that’s definitely going to finish above does little harm. Giving points away to one that you’re vying for position with is dangerous. It’s also embarrassing; a healthy defeat to Villa and the like is justifiable for obvious reasons. Losing to Stoke or West Brom, well every game is like a cup final for them innit?
Sometimes it just better to stick with the Status Quo, no matter what it does to the poor buggers that turn over their £15 to sit in the stand freezing their proverbials off.
And that’s where the brave (not so) new world of football as entertainment falls over. On the face of it, this game should be one for the fans. Two teams competing for roughly the same things, with a bit of history between them and a chance to move closer to the magical dividing line and make a rival start to look behind them.
The thing is that there’s too much at stake, especially when there are still so few points between a tilt at Europe and a battle to stay in the division. Given the risk of over extending yourselves and going down, mid-table mediocrity seems fairly attractive.
Perhaps I’m doing Steve Bruce a disservice here. After all he took a gamble with his team selection, Valencia and Mido were in despite recent injuries and Hugo ‘we’re not going to rush him into anything’ Rodallega started as our only striker without a limp. It was alright as well, until they started dropping like flies.
Early injuries to Valencia and Brown meant that Koumas and Watson got runs out of more than an hour and before the half was out, a barely fit Zaki was forced on for his hobbling compatriot. I’m not one for making excuses, but the upshot was that half the team that took to the field in the second half were suffering from either a lack of match fitness or were carrying an injury.
Boy did it show. The first half had been reasonable with well worked chances for both sides. The second half deteriorated into a mess of long balls and misplaced passes. Come the final whistle, Koumas, Watson and Rodallega could barely kick a ball 5 yards let alone find a team mate at the same time. Fulham were a little better, but they seemed to having similar problems as both teams retreated into their own halves.
None of that went down particularly well, with aspects of the JJB mob showing their dissatisfaction, with Watson and Koumas in particular. I’m not one for booing players myself for reasons ranging between not being bothered to wanting to get behind the team, especially when, like here, the players in question are clearly tired and scratching for confidence, but I do have sympathy with the argument that the least you can expect from professional footballers is for them to be able to pass the ball to each other.
Bruce suggested that Latics’ fans might be getting ahead of themselves when asked about his set-to with a West Stander in the second half. I’m usually the first to start sniggering when that happens, but with talk of European qualification dominating the build up to the game, you’ve hardly helped yourself this time, have you Steve?
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