If the most dreaded phrase in the English language is "rail-replacement bus service", for Watford fans it must be almost equalled by "deserved more from the game" and "struck the woodwork". Yesterday, all three came together, and while Watford at least won their first away point of the season, they would be haunted once again on the return from the North-west by the thought that it could have been so much better.
At least until half-time yesterday, anybody who endured the coaches north of Crewe must have been in the extraordinary position of wishing they were still stuck on the A49.
Perhaps it wasn't quite so bad as the travesty of a match at the Reebok a fortnight ago, when it was tempting to take a potato peeler to the eyes, but by any other measure it was atrocious.
In his programme notes, Paul Jewell expressed a degree of frustration at the stop-start nature of the beginning of this season, disrupted as it has been for Wigan by international games and their opponents' European commitments, and he certainly could make the case that Wigan's relatively lowly League position is due to a dearth of home games.
Yesterday's meeting with Watford was only the second Premiership fixture at the JJB this season, but if they are all going to be as devoid of incident - never mind any kind of aesthetic quality - as yesterday's, that may turn out to have been a blessing.
Not that Wigan fans were particularly bothered, as they went in one-up at half-time thanks to a 29th-minute goal, that, in keeping with most of what had gone before, featured a high ball, an aerial duel and an offside decision. Damien Francis cleared the initial danger to the edge of the box, but as Emile Heskey and Malky Mackay jumped for it, the ball bounced back to Henri Camara, who rolled his finish past Ben Foster. He was clearly in an offside position, and the linesman raised his flag, but the referee, Rob Styles, rightly ruled that the ball had come off the Watford defender. Over-eager flagging was a persistent feature.
That was the Senegalese forward's first goal of the season, but, with Watford shambolic at the back, he should have twice added to that tally before the break. Set through by a Heskey flick, he dragged his shot badly wide, and then, released by Kevin Kilbane's ball over the top, and escaping the offside trap by starting in his own half, he cuffed his shot weakly into Foster's midriff.
As they had done at home to Aston Villa last week, Watford improved significantly after half-time, and that dragged the game upwards almost despite itself.
Marlon King, taking a ball down on his chest and hitting a smart shot on the turn, almost equalised seven minutes in, only for the slightest touch from Chris Kirkland to guide the ball on to the post: memories immediately of the Reebok, and the three times Watford hit the post and bar there in losing 1-0.
The equaliser, though, did come 10 minutes later, from a neatly worked free-kick routine. King touched the ball off for Hameur Bouazza, and his low drive arced into the bottom corner. After that, it was back to unimaginative humping and lumping, of which Watford probably had marginally the better. Certainly, had King's effort gone in rather than bouncing back off the post, Wigan could hardly have cited an injustice. That, though, is becoming the story of Watford's season, and is ceasing to offer much consolation.Reuse content