Tag Archives: Wigan Athletic

It gets better and better: Watford, Wigan, Liverpool and Newcastle

After enduring games against Watford and Wigan when the team, rather than the Manager, played like it had a prison sentence hanging over its head we regained our composure with an excellent defensive display at Anfield and a stupendous first half performance against Newcastle at Whit Hart Lane last night. As we appreciate sport at the very top level is all about confidence and having a clear head and that really shone through against Newcastle. Maybe it was the manner of the loss at Man City but it seemed more of a “got something on my mind” situation.

What’s more deadline day eyebrow raiser Louis Saha took 20 minutes to equal his haul for Everton this season with two well taken goals as we ran though a Newcastle team that took two mandatory counts in the first six minutes. You have to feel sorry for Defoe sitting on the bench looking on but for me Saha showed all that Pav didn’t for the majority of his stay at the Lane and certainly increased our options for the remainder of the season.

To be truthful I didn’t see all of the Watford game but in the second half action I saw we looked like the Championship side and without Kaboul could have been out. I had heard Rafa’s goal on radio commentary whilst driving and was shocked when I saw how far out he had been when he hit it. Thankfully we progress to the next round but if we don’t play better it could be interesting.

Next up was Wigan in a game which we took all of 20 minutes to get going in. Yes, a comfortable win but Wigan were so bad in the first half that they should have been lucky to get nil yet ended the game looking for a second. Having said that the goals when they came were wonderful. 

Modric’s deep chip across the box to Bale was delightful and Gareth took it brilliantly and despatched it for 1-0. Modric then got in on the act with a well hit shot from the edge of the box to give us a 2 goal lead at half time. In the second half Bale scored another excellent effort but to be honest the Wigan men were like subbuteo men sitting off him and allowing him to strike his now trademark left edge to right corner shot. 

Wigan’s consolation came from a looping deflection but at a time when we should have been inflicting further goal difference improvement upon them and as I said earlier they then pressed for a second. To be fair we did introduce all three subs including a debut for Cameron Lancaster who worked hard to get into the game so the team ended a little disjointed with Livermore having to drop to right back in place of Walker. He himself had been a sub coming on in the first half to replace Rafa who had ended up sitting down on the half way line and throwing his shin pads away in frustration.

This time it was a calf injury for Rafa rather than the usual hamstring and he didn’t make the Liverpool or Newcastle games. That could have presented a problem as Anfield has always proved a difficult place to get a result and our bench on the night showed how stretched the squad had become. Saha and Rose, who got on, plus new boy Nelsen, Khumalo, Luongo and Lancaster.

However, a stirring display gave us a creditable point with Dawson and Parker being outstanding. We also had a chance on the break during the second half which Bale unfortunately scuffed straight to Riena when he maybe had a little more time. 

Suarez was available but despite not being called upon to practice his handshakes got on after an hour and within minutes had planted a kick into Parker’s midriff. After the Manchester City game I suggested that Ballatelli might have been unlucky when standing on Parker but for me this Suarez incident was similar to the Lescott one. Is it important to make it look as bad as possible so that you get away with it? I suppose it is as that is how Stoke have got used to going about their work. 

Some years ago Drogba fell down for fun but then for no apparent reason stayed on his feet more and earned more respect for showing the player he is. Suarez certainly needs to take that wise counsel as he looks a good player who is too keen to win at whatever the cost rather than by exercising his skills. 

And so to Newcastle, with Lennon and Defoe returning to the bench, and a first start for Saha. Newcastle’s error may have been to try and give us a game for their early attack was cleared and suddenly Benny turned up on the far post to turn in Adebayor’s cross to light the blue touch paper with his opener. 

We’d hardly sat down before Adebayor crossed from the right for Saha to arrive perfectly and prod it home past Tim Krull sending us into raptures. Newcastle weren’t done and tried to come back at us but Dawson and King were solid at the back setting Luka back into possession from where he orchestrated further damage with a second for Saha and then Kranjcar making it four before the break. 

An early goal in the second and it could have been 10 but to Newcastle’s credit they battened down the hatches and did well in closing the game down. We still had plenty of second half possession and missed a couple of chances before Adebayor turned home a Saha header in spectacular fashion to add a goal to his 4 first half assists. 

In many ways this result is what could have happened in a number of games had we put away our chances and what looked good was the way Saha and Adebayor worked together. Defoe did get onto the field and had a few runs but nothing opened up for him to remind Harry of his talents. 

Both Wigan and Newcastle were a big reminder to Harry of the affection with which is currently held at White Hart lane. Last night he was bombarded with a continual outpouring of emotion from all sides of the stadium asking him to stay and continue managing this team. 

The team were fantastic last night so Harry had little to do. Unfortunately a problem with a plane prevented Harry from travelling to Liverpool but had he we might have played better in the second half. His work will be cut out from now till the end of the season in our games at White Hart Lane. 

Whilst Manchester United will come out and play Stoke, Swansea, Norwich, Blackburn and Fulham will no doubt have taken heed and unless we can open them up early doors we face further 10 men back games to avoid further goal fests. 

Before then its FA Cup and then that lot up the road. That promises to be some game.

Come On You Spurs    

Bittersweet but no symphony: Wigan 0 Tottenham 0

The Wife’s Open University Graduation ceremony prevented me from watching online the Wigan Spurs game and having watched the Sky highlights I might have been handed an escape. That’s not to say we played badly but in real time and not knowing the score the last 10 minutes would have been nervous as we did our best to offer Wigan some opportunity to take all six points this season.

In my preview I suggested that the mind had to be on the job rather than more exciting fixtures in the future and I was not convinced that the team succeeded. I’d forgotten JJ who had our best opportunity of the first half and maybe the game when I suggested a team sheet and he came into midfield as Lennon was deemed not fit enough to start.

At season’s end Wigan may be another opponent that come back to haunt us. Like West Ham we allowed them to take four points from us this term and whilst you can excuse the Hammers with it being a London derby and all that I’m not sure that the same can be said for the Latics. I would be surprised if they escape the drop come mid May so their record against us will be one of their better ones and if we want to mount a serious challenge we have to despatch these sides. 

That being said I do agree with Harry that there are no easy games in the Premier League and with Arsenal and Chelsea also being held to draws the differential for the Champions League runner up qualification spots was unchanged on Saturday evening. However, City’s demolition of Sunderland did two things; made it more difficult for us point wise and widened the goal difference.

Therefore we have to defeat them and win all of our remaining games as there is little chance of us overturning the goal difference. That has been a disappointment of this campaign. Our goal scoring has dried up and without the signing of Van Der Vaart would look really poor. His problem is that opponents are now ready for him and whilst he is able to orchestrate things and retain possession often in difficult circumstances he is marked out of it in the last third. 

Yesterday he operated in midfield rather than off the striker and had a couple of snapshots which the keeper did well to hold onto but in the last couple of games he has been much deeper irrespective of position. 

At the season’s start I suggested that there was not much wrong with our strikers but we maybe needed to create more chances for them. Yesterday the highlights appeared to show us not creating much but after previous games when sack loads of chances have come they haven’t delivered. Confidence appears to be an issue and without any of them being prolific they probably all think that they should be playing. 

The reality is that at the present time none of them should be playing and in the days of Bill Nicholson the cheque book would have appeared. These days the window forces hands and make it difficult to recruit the right men mid season so we have to go with what we have and support them on the field but it is galling to me to see Berbatov sitting on the bench. I know many of you would not want him back but put him into our side and how good could we be?

Sandro continued in midfield and looked quite good to me again as did Luka Modric who like Van Der Vaart looks nearly impossible to dispossess. Jenas looked lively but came under increasing pressure in the second half when Wigan came on stronger. 

At the back Gomes was at his best making some decent saves and dealing with his crosses and Bassong made a crucial second half block after struggling with a bounce in the first before a flag came to his aid. Corluka is back to fitness and with the suggestion that Hutton is out for the season he needs to be. He like Benny played reasonably well although Benny was caught out badly near the end of the game and we were lucky to escape. 

So we come home with a point rather then the three we wanted but a point at least. “We never got going”, Harry told reporters afterwards and “did not deserve to win the game.” I won’t disagree but we picked up no more injuries and head off to Spain for the game we had in mind during the 90 minutes. Let’s hope we don’t have the Stoke game in mind when Tuesday night comes round!         

The ante ups here: Wigan Athletic V Tottenham Hotspur preview

Having not played for 14 days a developing injury crisis is the last thing on our minds but that is what we have. Gareth Bale picked up a hamstring against West Ham, Lennon returned from the England squad and now we learn Gallas cannot kick a ball. 

So we trot off to the part of the Country where we can’t buy points in search of three with only two fit centre backs. Problem? Frankly yes as this game wouldn’t be a dead cert for Spurs if all our centre backs were fit. Call me a defeatist if you like but our record in the North West is dire and we all know what can happen if our mind is elsewhere or we get put onto the back foot away from home.

On top of that we’ve struggled to put away our chances at Blackpool and against West Ham and whilst Wigan can on occasions be helpful in gifting opportunities we need to make sure that we take them and not look to the heavens in despair.

There is good news though. Tom Huddlestone (remember him?) came through 80 minutes against Barnet and will be in our squad. Who’s to say he won’t be pressed into action as a centre back tomorrow and maybe at The Bernabau. Unfortunately Woodgate did not and he and Ledley King may not be seen again in a Spurs shirt this season. 

The big decision is how expansive should we be in our midfield for this game. Maximum points are imperative but no points at all a disaster. We have the players to destroy them but at the same time have they the stomach for a tough midfield battle so soon before the Madrid match? Starting well and hitting them on the break is paramount to putting them on the back foot for as they showed at White Hart Lane they can be disciplined and take their chances.

Lennon will play Harry says as he is fit and Sandro should continue alongside him. Without Bale will Pienaar get the nod ahead of Kranjcar? I think he will for the work rate he offers and Modric is an automatic choice. With Palacios and Huddlestone on the bench it should provide us with enough men to pack out the midfield for 90 minutes whilst creating sufficient chances to take the points.

The trouble is can we put them away? Last time away from The Lane Jermain Defoe chipped in with two and would be disappointed a post cost him a match ball but against West Ham he was thwarted by Robert Green. I fancy JD’s chances of adding to his tally tomorrow on the break if he puts effort into running the right lines and linking with Lennon. But who will Harry partner him with?

It could be Crouch but then will he not be saved for Real Madrid? It could be Pav but will he work hard enough if the match requires it? Or will it be Rafa in the days before his grudge match in the Champions League? I think Rafa will get the start but if we get ahead expect him to come off after 60 minutes in preparation for Tuesday.

Should we not get three points we risk our already slim hopes of fourth place. That’s not to say we cannot achieve it but we need to take matters into our own hands by winning games rather than relying on others to slip up. Each game we ask for the run to start here and unfortunately it hasn’t done so. 

It reminds me of 1984-85 when a fabulous position was squandered with a number of clumsy defeats leaving us third at the season’s end. In those days finishing first was all important and not fourth and it was in our grasp at one point; we even won away at Liverpool for the first time since the Titanic sunk!   

So I would like to see the following team tomorrow

                                 Gomes

  Corluka     Dawson    Bassong      Ekotto

Lennon      Sandro      Modric       Pienaar

                   Van Der Vaart          Defoe

Prediction: A decent start providing a platform for a 3-1 win that doubles our points tally in the North West! 

Come on You Spurs