McArthur spark gets Wigan rocking
Bolton Wanderers 1 Wigan Athletic 2: Martinez's men show their survival instinct against a Bolton side whose confidence has evaporated
Sunday 12 February 2012
As one of their biggest victories of the season loomed, those that had made the short journey from Wigan to Bolton began a chorus of "We shall not be moved."
Since Wigan finished the game bottom of the Premier League, they would hope to be proved wrong. Nevertheless, Wigan may be moving at a glacial pace but they are moving. Bolton, the side that dismantled Liverpool here only a few short weeks before, have chosen a precarious time to lose form.
This and their 2-0 defeat at Norwich last weekend would count among Owen Coyle's worst days of the season. It is a measure of how poor they were that he had employed all three of his substitutes by the 64th minute after which came a recovery of sorts.
When the final whistle blew, there were two points separating the bottom five. Each will have an avenue to survival, whether it be Queens Park Rangers' money or the fact that Blackburn will nearly always score.
Wigan's is that they have been here so many times before and that they expected to be going into the spring having to scrap for their lives. Eight successive defeats in the autumn meant they were likely to be nowhere else.
Afterwards, their manager, Roberto Martinez, remarked that the qualities clubs in Wigan's position require from their footballers are: "ability, arrogance and bravery". These are traits which Victor Moses, Wigan's Nigerian-born, England qualified winger, who was one of the casualties as Crystal Palace went into administration, possesses.
The 21-year-old began by turning his marker both ways and shooting into the side-netting and finished it by running hard at the Bolton defence,going past Sam Ricketts and shooting before David Wheater could slide in with the tackle. Frankly, Adam Bogdan might have held a shot that was not struck with any great pace and it spilled into James McArthur's path. He was six yards out, the net was gaping and unguarded and, even for a side averaging less than a goal a game, it was unmissable.
"This game is much easier when you are in the top six," said Martinez. "Down here you need to show your metal and we have been here so many times before that we know how to fight for our lives."
And yet as the second half wore on Bolton seemed the likelier winners. Even playing badly, they managed two fabulous moves. One led to a goal, the other should have done. First came Mark Davies's goal, a long ball that struck David Ngog on the shoulder and fell to Davies before Maynor Figueroa could react. The man, who whatever happens, is likely to be Bolton's player of the season delivered a left-footed shot that screeched past Ali Al Habsi. The introduction of Ryo Miyaichi, whose arrival on loan from Arsenal has ensured Bolton have more press coverage in Japan than at any time in their history, appeared to galvanise a side that appeared not to understand quite how critical this match might be for their club's future.
His father played professional baseball and when the 19-year-old cut into the box and shot, it appeared that this, metaphorically, would be his first home run. The stadium had just started to acclaim the goal when Al Habsi pushed the ball away.
Reflecting on a disastrous afternoon, Coyle bemoaned the waste of a crucial and obvious opportunity and especially the opening goal. A corner from Jean Beausejour, a free header from Gary Caldwell sparked an explosion of flares in the away end that briefly made the Reebok feel like the Estadio Monumental until stewards and police waded in and fire extinguishers were directed into the smoke from an executive box above. This is something that never happens in Buenos Aires.
Bolton (4-4-2): Bogdan; Steinsson, Wheater, Knight, Ricketts; Eagles (Tuncay, 58), Reo-Coker, M Davies, Petrov (Ryo, h-t); Ngog, K Davies (Klasnic, 63).
Wigan (4-4-1-1): Al Habsi; Boyce, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa; McArthur, McCarthy, Beausejour, Moses; Gomez (Rodallega, 75); Di Santo (Jones, 90).
Referee Howard Webb.
Man of the match Moses (Wigan).
Match rating 6/10.
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