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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Escape to Victory

By Paul Traill :  31/01/2010 :  Comments (5) :

Match report - Wigan Athletic v Everton

My mate Ben’s a Wigan fan and is at was his 30th birthday he fancied one of them ‘go-the-game-and-go-out-on-the-piss-afterwards’ sort of days so we had quite a few of us going to this one. Ben tipped us off to park on Ormskirk Road for ease of getting out of the stadium. We did just that and all congregated in the Queens Arms, about a five minute walk from the ground.

Going to Wigan always reminds you of what the Kirby stadium would have been like…a stadium surrounded by shops. Well we walked through the shops and to the ground. As we approached we heard a load of trumpets trumpeting out from the inside. “Its like ‘Escape to Victory’ quipped Gary.

We went inside and instantly realized why we enjoy away games that bit more than the home ones. The atmosphere was rocking, people singing and beer frothing around in the air. I saw the team news and found there was just the one change from the side which defeated Sunderland so comfortably last Wednesday – Senderos in for Distin.

The only change on the bench was Rodwell in for Arteta. Wigan went for two up front – Scotland and Rodallega, James McCarthy in midfield and new signing Gary Caldwell featuring in defense. Though the match program stated Alan Whiley was the referee, it was in fact Lee Probert. We attacked the home end in the first half though you wouldn’t have known so given the array of empty seats at the DW Stadium, the away end was sold out however.

We started reasonably though it didn’t take long for Wigan to settle into the game. It looked as though we had a good penalty shout early on when Saha was clattered by one of the Wigan defenders but the referee said no. Come to think of it, quite how the referee felt it wasn’t a foul is beyond me.

However, on chances alone Wigan really oughta have had the game sown up by half-time. Rodallega and Scotland both missed more than reasonable opportunities to get their team ahead as Everton lacked sufficient bite and Senderos looked a little shaky in defense.

At the other end Saha came close with a cracking header I think from a corner, and I think it was also Saha who had a pop at goal from the edge of the box which deflected off someone, I think Cahill, sending the keeper the wrong way though ricocheting back off the post although the flag went up for offside anyway. Wigan were generally poor and this highlighted that if we could just step it up a bit in the second half we’d probably have won this game.

I felt we stifled Wigan more in the second half and restricted them to very few goal scoring opportunities. Regardless, passing was astray and chances were at a premium. As the game went on you felt just the one goal would settle the game. We felt we had another penalty shout when Baines got himself into the box and appeared to be tripped but this was denied by the official.

We felt we’d gotten the key goal earlier in the game when a pass from Pienaar was picked up by Cahill. He stroked at goal but the ball was blocked. It came back to Cahill on the byline and he played the ball across to Fellaini who tapped home though the linesman’s flag went up straight away for offside. I couldn’t understand it as Cahill’s pass seemed to go backwards.

As Wigan tired Everton pressed and it was the introduction of Victor Anichebe which contributed towards settling this one…and unsettling Wigan. He replaced the rather ineffective Landon Donavon on the right hand side, switching Pienaar back to the left to work with Baines. This was also instrumental in turning up the heat on Wigan late on.

The winner came when Baines battled hard and won a corner on the left hand side. He swung it in himself, Cahill connecting with a free header and planting it Cahill-like downwards and into the net. The referee didn’t give his assistant a chance to flag this time, blowing and pointing to the centre circle practically instantly.

We just had to play out the last few minutes and injury time and we’d settled the contest. Saha went down in stoppage time for a lengthy period and was replaced by Vaughan. Wigan couldn’t have come much closer to grabbing a draw when Insomnia drilled an effort onto the crossbar from the edge of the box. That was unlucky and was practically the last kick of the game. We took the points and are still quietly climbing up that table.

A few observations. Play like that next week and we’ll get beat. End of. Having said that generally this season when we’ve been beaten we’ve deserved to be and when we’ve won we’ve deserved to so its nice to get a lucky one for a change… HAVING SAID THAT, we certainly didn’t get the luck with the refereeing decisions today so maybe we did deserve the win…just.

On another matter, what’s up Saha? He looks as though he just can’t be fagged at the moment. If he’s not interested and wants a move performing like that is hardly going to help his cause…HAVING SAID THAT…I hope his injury ain’t too serious and he’s available for the derby next week.

More positively, it was great to see Anichebe back and looking quite sharp, after a nervous start Senderos seemed to settle well and its good to see Cahill back to pretty much his best…being a nuisance and scoring goals. Another one next weekend would be nice. As Gary said in the car going home…if you had to back somebody to score in the derby at Anfield, who would you put our money on?

Changing the subject entirely, what’s the etiquette when it comes to cars approaching pelican crossings when there’s an insane amount of pedestrian traffic? I’ve always thought its reasonable for the driver to edge forward slowly…you know, give and take and all that. Obviously not everyone thinks this way.

On the way out of the ground some nutter took it upon himself to start yelling and punching the window of this taxi for such an offence, and then similarly berating another driver a little further down the road…some people have issues man. Anyway, enough from me. Time to take the points at Anfield.

Player Ratings:

Howard: Made a few reasonable saves but was probably expected to save them. Otherwise was generally untested though his decision making with crosses and distribution was pretty good. 8

Baines: A bi hit and miss but put work hard at it in the closing stages and had a big influence on the end result. Good corner for the goal.7

Heitinga: My man of the match. It says a lot about the player he is when he’s had so many centre-back partners this season and has been pretty consistent. Neville, Distan, Yobo, Neill and now Senderos but he’s adapted well every time. Kept things steady at the back. 8

Senderos: After a relatively poor start he grew it confidence as the game went on and looked quite comfortable in the second half. Not a bad debut at all.7

Neville: Poor basically. 5

Fellaini: Patchy but grew in stature as the game wore on and was unlucky to have a goal chalked off. Needs an immense performance next week in his first game for us at Anfield. 6

Pienaar: Not at his best but put the work in as always. Stepped it up in the last 10 minutes or so and helped grab that goal. 6

Donavon: Worked hard but little to no end product. Would be useful if we could keep him for the remainder of the season though. 5

Osman: Did pretty well and kept things ticking though was out-muscled from time to time. 6

Cahill: Great nuisance value. Was a good battle between him and Caldwell. Typical Cahill header for the goal.7

Saha: What’s up mate? We need more from you than that. If you do want to move you can hardly be impressing your prospective employees. Step it up…starting next week pleeeeeeaaaaasssseee. 5

Anichebe (for Donavon): Did very well…particularly given hoe long he’s been out for. I think that’s his best position on the wing. 7

Vaughan (for Saha): Not on long can’t judge.

Reader Comments

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Connor Rohrer
1   Posted 31/01/2010 at 22:21:55

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I think people are being harsh on Saha simply because of his contract situation. He’s not in great form at the moment, granted, but players have spells where things aren’t going right for them. It happens, that’s football.

It doesn’t mean they don’t care or they want to move, Saha has never said he wants to the leave the club and I very much doubt he will before the transfor window shuts.

He’s carried us for a lot of the season, we are lucky to have him really. He’ll get back to his best.
Andrew James
2   Posted 31/01/2010 at 23:01:06

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I agree Connor - watching the game he had some shocking moments (like some horribly heavy passes) but he showed willing to chase stuff down and his 13 goals so far are the difference between top ten and a relegation battle.

If he wants to go in the Summer then fine - he is over 30 and injury prone. We should shake his hand and say thanks for some great goals.

But where will the goals come from? We’ll have to buy a quality striker or (Yakubu I am looking at you) someone else will need to score a hatful.
Trevor Lynes
3   Posted 01/02/2010 at 13:58:48

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It was Saha who battled for and won the corner that Cahill scored from... so the author is a little awry on that one.
Saha is the most comfortable player on the ball than anyone on show in an EFC shirt against Wigan, only Arteta matches him for this.

However, I still feel that we need to strengthen and we still have a small squad. It appears that ambition is still a word that is missing in the EFC vocabulary and our board seem satisfied with a hard work ethic but little class.

Keith Glazzard
4   Posted 01/02/2010 at 20:38:49

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"Play like that and we’ll get beat."

No doubt Paul - but I guess the players have worked that out for themselves. Which is why they treated Sunderland and Wigan as practice games. Six points without risking too much.

Very big February to come. Which they know.
Paul Joy
5   Posted 02/02/2010 at 10:23:05

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Trevor Lynes: spot on about Saha — he won the corner.
Bit the word missing from our vocabulary is cash.

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