Football FA Cup: Robinson wrecks Wigan's good work

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The Independent Online
Wigan Athletic 0

Wolves 1

Robinson 90

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 10,531

WHEN KEVIN Muscat's third-minute free kick skidded awkwardly on the sodden turf at the JJB stadium, it looked as though this might not be an easy afternoon to be a goalkeeper.

Unlikely as it seemed at that moment, Roy Carroll and Michael Oakes performed magnificently to keep this entertaining tie goalless until the second minute of injury time, when Carl Robinson's header clinched a result that did Wigan scant justice.

Each of the goalkeepers had a period when he defied the opposition single- handedly and Wigan could have been put firmly in their place in the first half if it had not been for Carroll's efforts. Apart from his early scramble, he saved outstandingly from Neil Emblen's shot on the turn and twice from the Australian striker, Steve Corica.

Even without their leading scorer, Stuart Barlow, who cried off with an injured foot, Wigan showed plenty of attacking potential, with Simon Haworth and Andy Liddell both looking dangerous on the break.

It was after the half-time interval that they really came into their own, only to find the former Villa man, Oakes, in the sort of form that had Wolves supporters chanting "Oakes for England" at the end.

After Liddell and Haworth had both gone close, Oakes made two superlative saves from Haworth as the ex-Coventry forward did everything but score. He also had to react quickly to cut out Haworth's low cross before it reached Liddell in front of goal. On top of all that, Latics had two loud appeals for a penalty turned down as they continued to match the visitors with an enviable Cup pedigree - including winning the final in which Wigan's millionaire chairman, Dave Whelan, broke his leg and opted for a career in business.

"We've been winning but we haven't been playing well," was their manager John Benson's assessment of Wigan's unbeaten League record - the only one in British senior football. "Today we've played really well and got beaten." The logic behind that, apart from Oakes's heroics, lay in one piece of slack marking in the 92nd minute.

Wolves forced two corners in quick succession and, from the second of them, substitute Paul Simpson drove the ball across hard from the left. Robinson, the Welsh midfielder, charged into the penalty area and his header was too powerful for even Carroll to keep out.

Coming after their spectacular win over Manchester City last week, that goal kept Wolves' season on the rise, but even Colin Lee agreed that Wigan had merited a replay. "They deserved to get a draw," he admitted. "Their goalkeeper did very well in the first half and Michael Oakes did equally well for us in the second."

In true managerial manner, Lee had not seen the incident in which Benson claimed that Ade Akinbiyi had been lucky not to be sent off for head butting Arjan De Zeeuw. Open to less dispute was the fact that Wigan are unlucky to be out of the Cup.