Milton Keynes Dons 1 Wigan Athletic 3 match report: Nick Powell double sends holders into next round of FA Cup
After extra time; Score at 90min, 1-1
A dream made manifest at Wembley was close to death at Milton Keynes before a loan star from Manchester United extended Wigan’s association with the FA Cup.
United might have gone out in the third round but in 19-year-old Nick Powell, they maintain an interest in the competition. With 11 minutes remaining, Milton Keynes were the team preparing to host Crystal Palace in the fourth round but then up popped Powell to take the tie into extra time.
A minute into first period Powell raced through the middle to lift the ball over David Martin and in off a post. He changed the game for the Dons and could arguably come into the thinking of David Moyes, if the United manager feels his needs to freshen up his team’s ailing midfield. A third by Marc-Antoine Fortuné was merely embroidery.
The chance to witness a coup against the FA Cup holders was hardly persuasive judging by the empty spaces in the newly configured stadium. A few hardy souls made the trip from Wigan, enough at a push to populate kitchens at parties.
With more vacant seats than people, the ground acquired the quality of an echo chamber, the enthusiastic chants behind the Milton Keynes goal rebounding around the void. It was noisy enough 10 minutes in, however, when Luke Chadwick – a former United player himself – rounded off a neat move, side-footing past Ali al-Habsi in the Wigan goal.
Chadwick has been out since early November recovering from injury, yet had lost none of his attacking instinct as he raced on to a ball cut back neatly from the byline to remind observers of his blue-chip apprenticeship.
With the Dons full of purpose, the black kit chosen by Wigan suitably reflected their joyless start. When the visitors did begin to settle, they found Martin alert in the opposing goal, diving full length to divert Fraser Fyvie’s opportune strike from distance. Roger Espinoza was next to speculate for Wigan, firing a rasping left-footer narrowly over the bar.
Though a division apart, the teams share remarkably similar league records. Both sit 10th with a goal difference of five. Both have won 10 times and are within a victory of the play-off mix. Depending on your point of view, this fixture was an unwanted diversion or maybe a catalyst for brighter things to come.
Milton Keynes would have been advocates of the latter position. Their young manager, Karl Robinson, has fashioned a lively, compact unit with the emphasis on breaking quickly.
They might have doubled their lead on any number of occasions in the opening half. Three times Al Habsi kept Wigan in the game while another opportunity was swept wide by Daniel Powell.
The second half began in teeming rain, soaking an already sodden pitch and making it difficult for Wigan to impose their Championship status. The home side resumed in defensive mode, with few ambitions beyond the half-way line.
With an hour gone, Wigan introduced Powell to rescue the holders’ night. He injected a yard of pace and no little vision into the centre of the park. You wondered why Moyes and his scouting team was blowing a fortune on flights across Europe when they could have observed a player of stature already on the Old Trafford books making his mark in Milton Keynes.
With 11 minutes remaining, it was the graduate of the Crewe academy who poked the ball home to haul Wigan back into the game, just a few minutes after Shaun Williams hit a post for the Dons.
Milton Keynes Dons Hodson; Kay, Williams, Lewington; Gleeson, Potter, Chadwick (Bowditch, 58), Carruthers (Smith, 95), D Powell (Baldock, 95); Reeves.
Wigan Athletic Al Habsi; Perch (Boyce, 60), Barnett, McCann, Watson; Crainey, McArthur, Espinoza, Fyvie (N Powell, 60); Fortuné , McClean (Gomez, 72).
Referee J Adcock (Nottinghamshire).
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