"It was supposed to be so eeeeaaasy," bemoans The Streets’ Mike Skinner at the start of the concept album, ‘A Grand Don’t Come for Free.’ But the thing is, it was indeed very easy to beat a poor Wigan side to mark Dougie Freedman’s taking of the tiller at the City Ground.
Square pegs in square holes seemed to be the theme in the build-up to this game following on from a battling performance down at Brighton. Once boiled down and left to simmer, this appears to mean playing players in their preferred positions and making sure that the team is set up not to go hell for leather to bust a gut to score a goal and then collapse like a floppy dog should a goal go against. Generally speaking, we are very much in favour of such an approach.
Midweek home games haven’t brought out the best in the boys in red since that bizarre victory against Fulham way back in the Jurassic age but once the team nudged their noses in front courtesy of a beautifully crafted goal from Britt Assombalonga, the victory never looked in doubt. Indeed, it was stated here by a Wigan fan that should his team go a goal down, it was Game Over – and so it proved. Chris Burke disavowed craft and guile and applied some much needed welly once put through on goal after a bamboozling run from Michael Antonio. Henri Lansbury curled a beauty to seal the deal. It’s obviously very early days but Burke and Lansbury back amongst the goals and generally running around, getting involved and not getting booked is reminiscent of those good times of August and September.
Gary Gardner patrolled the middle of the park, allowing little Benny Osborn (is it possible to adopt professional footballers and receive a cuddly lookalike toy? If it is, we’re all elbows at the front of the queue) to get forward down the inside left with freedom whilst Danny Fox played a disciplined game both in terms of a lack of foul play and defensively. Indeed both he and the other full back, Eric Lichaj, rarely seemed to stray forward and pretty much seemed to leave the attacking fancy-dan stuff to the forwards, who looked dangerous and mobile. This was all very pleasing.
But just when it seemed that nothing could dampen spirits, Britt went down after an innocuous challenge on the edge of the area…and stayed down. Wigan players did that worrying thing of waving to the bench and flashbacks of Chris Cohen and David Johnson laying prone in the Trent End penalty box were rampant. We are but playthings of the sadistic gods.
Wigan were oh so indescribably bad but six goals and three points in two games is, although at the expense of inferior opposition, commendable. After the game, Dougie Freedman cooed, ‘"I feel everyone’s committed to the team effort. In the last ten minutes, when Wigan were playing freely, we were still really professional in keeping the ball out the back of our net – a good performance, but we’re not getting carried away." No, we shouldn’t get carried away and it’s obviously too early to start talking about a full on enlightened reconnaissance but one thing’s for sure, it’s bloody nice to be winning football matches again.