The last couple of games were played on lovely Spring days and, when I left home, it was rather warm and I feared I was over-dressed. In the event, I was nothing of the sort as the trip north took place under darkening skies and I arrived to chilly temperatures. On previous visits to Wigan, I have taken the supporters coach, so this was a new town to visit. Our pre-match pub was at Wigan Pier. The ironic name and Orwellian associations meant that I was expecting a rather dreary location, so was pleasantly surprised at how attractive the area was. Added to that, the beer was decent and the local speciality on the menu, a steak pudding, was cracking. There was soon a lovely gathering of Hornets, of whom I was the only one that had started my journey down south. The walk to the ground was along the canal and would have been delightful had it not been punctuated with cold showers. I was soaked through by the time I arrived at the DW
Stadium. Recent games have been preceded by airport-level searches before you were permitted to enter the ground, so when I approached a steward and asked if he wanted to search my bag, I was delighted to hear “Na, you’re all right, Love.” That endeared me to the town even more.
We came in to this game having not won away since early October while Wigan’s mid-week draw with Yeovil was the first time that they hadn’t won in a home league game this year. Team news was that Belkalem would replace Doyley. Oh, Beppe, Beppe, Beppe, what were you thinking? The starting line-up was Almunia, Angella, Cassetti, Belkalem, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Battocchio, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney. Wigan’s line-up included Watford Academy graduate Rob Kiernan.
The first chance on goal came from the home side with a lovely ball from Jordi Gómez to Beausejour who only had the keeper to beat, but Almunia blocked the shot. The Chilean threatened again with a cross that needed a hand from Almunia to keep it out. The corner was met with a header by Ramis that was blocked on the line and rebounded out off the inside of the post. Waghorn then tried a shot from distance, but it was straight at Almunia. On 18 minutes, Watford had their first meaningful attack but Anya’s shot flew well wide of the target. He pleaded with the referee that it had taken a deflection, but a goal kick was given. Ikechi was the next to threaten as he received a long pass from Deeney, advanced towards goal but shot well over. McClean then played a dangerous cross in the direction of Waghorn, but Almunia was first to the ball. At the other end, McGugan tried
a shot from distance that flew well wide. Then a through ball from Beausejour found McClean in front of goal, somehow he managed to miss the target but the linesman was flagging anyway. McClean then broke into the box and Almunia did really well to block the shot. At the other end, McGugan tried a shot that took a slight deflection off a defender which slowed it down so it was easily gathered by Al Habsi. Then McClean cut the ball back to Waghorn in the Watford box, but he was stopped by a brilliant tackle. McClean was tormenting the Watford defence. This time he attacked from the left, fortunately his shot was in to the side netting. On 35 minutes, Watford took a totally undeserved lead with our first decent shot on goal. Angella played a gorgeous ball to
McGugan who shot past Al Habsi into the far corner. We weren’t ahead for long as Beausejour found himself one-on-one with Almunia, the Spaniard parried the initial shot, but was beaten by the follow-up header. McClean nearly struck soon after as he skipped through the defence and shot past the near post. Just before half-time, Angella was penalized for a foul on Perch, he was completely distraught and I was rather amused to see Perch trying to placate him. In time added on, Al Habsi dropped the ball but McGugan couldn’t capitalize, although a foul on the keeper was given anyway.
The second half started with a shower of icy rain that made a rather lovely musical accompaniment to the game. The home side were ahead ten minutes into the half as Waghorn got the ball in the box, it appeared to be caught under his feet but he managed to turn and shoot past Almunia. Almost straight from kick-off, Tözsér was booked for an innocuous looking tackle. Waghorn was the next to make his way into the referee’s book after a foul on Faraoni. On the hour, Waghorn was replaced by Jack Collison making his Wigan debut after joining on loan from West Ham. Beausejour then found Jordi Gómez whose shot from distance was well over the bar. Anya latched on to a throw-in and advanced on goal, but was closed down before he could shoot. With 20 minutes remaining, McClean, who had been a menace all afternoon, was replaced by Powell. Beausejour threatened again with a volley that flew wide of the far post. Watford’s first substitution saw
Belkalem make way for Ekstrand. Deeney tried a shot that was blocked and came back to him, but he was closed down before he could get a second shot in. Then Angella played another great forward ball, this time to Pudil who ran into the box and was tackled, the ball fell to Anya who shot wide of the target. Wigan made their final substitution as Rogne replaced Kiernan. At this point, the rain became quite biblical, but the music that it played in our stand was gorgeous. A corner from Tözsér was met with a powerful defensive header from Boyce. With 10 minutes remaining, Diakite replaced McGugan. His first act in the game was to earn a yellow card for a foul on Jordi Gómez. This provoked a chant of “send him back to QPR” from some of the travelling crowd. Based on
what little I have seen, I am no fan of Diakite, but how does abusing your own players help when the team is fighting to get back in the game? I despair of some of our fans. We had a great chance to equalize soon after as Anya found himself in the box with just Al Habsi to beat, but he shot wide when he maybe should have done better although he was complaining of being held back. Wigan then threatened but Fortuné’s shot was into the side netting. In the Wigan box, Battocchio played a ball back to Tözsér whose shot was blocked. The home side launched a counter-attack and there was Battocchio back in defence where he intercepted the ball as Powell tried to play Fortuné in. With two minutes remaining, Ekstrand received his inevitable yellow card, although this one was very harsh as he’d merely tripped Jordi Gómez. In time added on, Deeney played a low cross towards Battocchio that was cleared, Cassetti picked it up and found Deeney whose shot was blocked but the flag was already up. The last chance of the game fell to McArthur whose shot was wide of the far post.
It was another disappointing away day for the Hornets. The team worked hard, but there were too many misplaced passes and Wigan seemed to be first to every loose ball. We lost the game in midfield, where we couldn’t gain a foothold. Wigan are a decent team, although nothing special, but we didn’t really trouble them and the score flattered us a bit. Still, as always, it was a good day out. I loved my visit to Wigan so am a bit conflicted when I say that I hope they win the third promotion spot as they are a very likeable club. We only have a short break before facing another team from Lancashire. Our away performance against Blackburn was truly horrible, so I’m hoping that we revert to our marvellous home form on Tuesday.