Wigan Athletic v Blue Boys By Ronald Ragin'
On a fine, sunny day thousands upon thousands of True Blues made their annual pilgrimage to the DW stadium, deep in the woolly wilds of Wigan. All in the hope of seeing the Glorious Ones hit the 50 point mark for the season.
Quite surprisingly, Mikky was restored to the team after his recent hamstring injury and, on paper, the team didn't look too bad. Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out that way, as the Blues started the game at a stroll and it was left to the Pie Eaters to set the early pace. Their good start was rewarded with another of this season's comedic goals being conceded, after 21 minutes, when Jolly Joe Kinnear's best mate, Charlie N'Zogbia seemed to have all the time and space in the world to curl a good shot past Tim Howard, right under the noses of the travelling Blues.
This setback hardly stung the Blues into much action, and the only player seemingly capable of creating anything meaningful was Billinge's own version of Lionel Messi, Leon Osman. Both Mikky and Tim didn't look match fit, and Big Vic was producing his usual powderpuff centre forward's performance. Even Bainesy looked off the pace, and may have been feeling sorry for his ex-team mates' current plight.
Despite the presence of Nev and Young Jack in the centre of midfield, Wigan were seeing much more of the ball and finding more space to create.
And then suddenly, Ossie was scythed down on the edge of the box by N'Zogbia and even the poorest excuse for a referee in the Premier League (Clattenburg aside!), Lee "The Head" Mason, couldn't fail to order a spot-kick. It certainly wasn't a bad penalty taken by Mikky, but Al Habsi produced an excellent diving save, and the Latics went in 1-0 ahead at half time.
It was difficult to argue with the scoreline, as the Blues simply hadn't done much at all and, apart from a couple of smart saves by their keeper from Ossie, Wigan had looked more likely to add to their lead.
The second half started much the same as the first, and it was only thanks to some fine saves from Tim Howard that the scoreline remained the same. With twenty minutes to go, the clearly match rusty Mikky and Tim were replaced by Seamus and Becks. This seemed to spark some action at last, and after 78 minutes Rodallega inexplicably clawed the ball out of the air in the penalty area, and once again, even Mason the Clown couldn't fail to spot the offence and award a penalty. No mistakes this time, as Bainesy lashed a terrific shot past the excellent Al Habsi in the Wigan goal.
Anichebe was eventually subbed, and Maggy took the field with more infinitely more purpose, for the last ten minutes or so.
At this point the referee (using the term loosely) decided to flash a yellow card the way of Wigan's Figueroa, after umpteen fouls, when Hibbo had earlier been booked for a simple block challenge. How on earth the majority of these characters justify their salaries to go with their "professional" status is beyond me. In the final moments, Rodallega missed a good chance to atone for his earlier error, and the game ended all square at 1-1.
In conclusion, it has to be said that Bobby Martinez's team would have collected all three points, but for the alarming lack of discipline in their defence, and for some fine saves by Tim Howard. Whether they stay up and we are back visiting the charmless DW stadium next season remains open to doubt.