After shaking hands with their opponents, the victorious players trudged off the muddy field at Post Office Road and went into the stand to collect the U18 Northern Schools Rugby League Cup. After mauling St Johns Rigby, Hull’s Wilberforce 6th Form College sat proudly on top of the RL U18 pyramid in 1992 proving for once that a Hull team was superior to a side from Wigan. For, like their Lancashire mill town neighbours Burnley, Wigan have usually come up trumps against this City’s three professional sides; (I’m not sure about including Hull Pirates in this) be it Challenge Cup wins, FA Cup knockouts, 5-0 PL home drubbings, 2-2 losses sending City down. Wigan have usually been around to administer a coup de grace kick in the balls. Bogey town, bogey teams.
Keen to make sure that Wigan A don’t do a horrible double over us this season City lined up:
Kane JDW Burke Lichaj
Bowen Pugh Grosicki
We kick off to the half full North Stand and begin brightly with some neat interplay between Grosicki, Campbell and Irvine on the left. I am firmly of the opinion that for all of the front four’s headline grabbing displays it is the dreamboat Aussie midfielder who is City’s most important and effective player. Jackson’s colossal work rate and energy levels just mean we are more likely to win with him in the side then any other midfielder. That said I’m not sure the added bum fluff makes him look older – he would still struggle to get served in Empress.
For the first quarter it is all City. We just see to have one pass in front.. Good work down the right by Bowen results in a cross that meets no one but is headed out for the first of roughly 100 corners. A reverse ball finds Irvine who has a shot blocked. The resulting corner sees DeWijs head over-bloody rubbish in the air he is! On 9 only a last ditch tackle stops FC after a mazey run by Grosicki. On 14 Bowen’s strike forces Walton to parry wide. The resulting corner then is cleared to Windass jnr who runs upfield to be stopped by a kneeling Kane who is adjudged to hand the ball and duly receives a yellow from referee Webb. The first time I encountered Josh Windass was when he was a mascot for Bradford City in our 2-0 at Valley Parade. When asked who his favourite player was he said “daddy” – aww bless. There may be a player there but I did not see much last night. But to win City need to score otherwise it is not worth getting out of bed at the end of the day.
On 21 we almost do score as we run Wigan ragged at the back. After some tidy footwork the ball finds FC wide of the post to knock to Pugh who loops a ball onto the bar. On 27 a Grosicki rocket goes wide. On 35 Henriksen dribbles towards the box but unleashes a meek shot. Wigan decide to start utilising the space behind Bowen and Grosicki by knocking it long to Robinson and Byrne but City remain the more likely to score. So, of course, I view with dismay the ball passed into our box, become stuck under DeWijs left foot and into the path of former City ‘striker’ Nick Powell who shows why City signed him to rifle past Marshall’s right hand into the net. Howl Howl Howl. 0-1 and the 150 Latin fans celebrate with a hardly apt ‘You’re fucking shit.’ I thought you will be eating those words, me laddos.
City kick off towards the sparse South Stand again on the front foot. Paul Cook’s thinking was that if they frustrate City by time wasting they could sneak a second away win in 20 and ease their mighty relegation worries. Duly Wigan began with all 11 behind the ball but without Nick Powell who shows why City sold him by not returning for the second half. It would take a superhuman effort or a calamity to get past this lot. City prayers were answered when Pugh strikes a long shot which can be described as bread and butter to most goal keepers. But to Walton it is a veritable slippery cannon ball to which the Wigan number one kindly spills towards an oncoming Campbell who pokes home. 1-1 and back in it.
Shortly after Walton continues to wreck whatever chances the Latin’s have by sliding outside the area clutching the ball. After a short pause Webb inexplicably produces a yellow instead of red. Pugh shortly comes off for the youngster Batty who proceeds to do very well I thought. A various array of corners and free kicks rain down on the Latin’s defence but they tend to hold firm with occasional forays upfront. On 75 Wigan nearly shit the City bed when a corner finds an unmarked Massey whose bullet header is stopped by Marshall’s thigh. Henriksen and Kane come off for Evandro and Martin. Now that’s positive play Adkins. In mind of the mauling Leon Clarke gave City at Bramall Lane last season Cook brings him on and sticks him up front looking for a winner.
But cometh the 89th minute cometh the man. After the ball is poked out again by Dunkley, Grosicki takes another out left. Seeing as the last 99 had come to naught my hopes were not high. In it swings. Defenders rise to meet the ball and clear. Strikers ready to pounce and nip it. But, like a salmon, JDW rises up and powers past everyone to head the ball past the hapless Walton and into the roof of the net. 2-1. And the 7000 City fans go wild. Suck on that, Latics! There is just enough time for City to waste time and boot the ball in the air and then that’s that.
Wigan face Leeds and Norwich in their next 2 games but let’s not rely on them to do us a favour. City then have done what they needed to do and dispatched three teams who they should beat. Now we face 5 teams with still possible promotion dreams beginning with the despicable Pulis at the dispiriting Riverside on Saturday. A game I wasn’t bothered about has suddenly become pivotal – so a ticket has been quickly bought. Get something from this and things could become very really interesting.
Dominic Fellowes (first appeared on the Tiger Chat mailing list)