Saturday, 18 July 2020

Game Framed By Two Bonne Chances

There’s not much point when so much was at stake in talking in terms of who deserved what from the game. Both teams will look back on it and feel overall they could have taken the three points, both will be aware that on another day they could easily have taken nothing. In midweek we were unable to see out the game and come away with an away win, today it was Wigan conceding in stoppage time. In the end the game was framed by the two chances that fell to Bonne. Having equalised he had the gilt-edged opportunity to put us 2-1 up and fluffed it; then in stoppage time he had his second chance and put it away. If the outcome is different in either instance everything would look different now (and let’s face it, if he’d missed the second one, arguably the more difficult, he would not be Mr Popular tonight).

The team news saw Bowyer revert to a 5-3-2 with Sarr coming in to join Lockyer and Pearce and Matthews and Doughty the wing-backs. In central midfield, with Pratley now out, Cullen was joined by Field and Forster-Caskey, while up front the surprise move was giving Davidson a starting spot alongside Bonne. On the bench it was a case of every available forward player taking his place (I can only think of Otzumer missing out) with just two defenders (Purrington and Oshilaja) available. It almost screamed out we know we might find ourselves in desperate need of a goal towards the end.

When it comes to goals, we repeated the trick against Reading and gifted the opposition an early one, with a combination of awful defending and very bad luck giving us just the start we didn’t want. I think it was Doughty or Pearce faffing around with the ball inside our area and playing a poor ball out under pressure which was picked up by them. The cross was met with a decent header and at close range Phillips parried well, only to see the ball then hit his foot, rebound to hit his head, then loop up under the bar for another of theirs to nod into the net.

Just horrible and, despite what had been a decent start to the game by us, you feared what might happen for a team struggling to score against one on a fine run of form with a defence giving away nothing. But what do we know? Within a couple of minutes we were level. Sarr sprayed a pass out to the right and Matthews put in a decent cross. It dropped towards Doughty at the far side of the box. Didn’t look especially dangerous but he swung his left foot at it and connected on the volley. Their keeper may have been caught by surprise but failed to make the save.

Wigan looked decidedly rattled after that, probably wasn’t in their script. In fact the period to half-time was very open and we should have scored again, getting success out of pressing high and winning back possession – although Wigan clearly carried a threat too, especially with their pacey No3, and with notably players getting joy coming into the box on our left side. Our midfield was working pretty well, Davidson was doing a good job of holding and harrying. And then there was Sarr. He brought the ball out down our left and looked up. Nothing seemed on so he took it a little further. Then he played the pass of the season to Bonne to run through on goal. Bonne controlled it well and had the time to set himself. Perhaps too much time as he wasted the opportunity with a tame finish which their keeper easily smothered. It was one which called out for a forward to decide what to do (or really to know in advance what he would do in that situation). It would have been meat and drink to Super Clive.

We continued to press, a cross scrambled away by a defender and their keeper, a corner not quite falling for Sarr at the far post, and we had a couple of appeals for a penalty. In both cases it looked as though there was contact but was there enough? Really have to see the replays. We are perhaps due one but this ref wasn’t interested. We were on top and really needed to get in front before the break to capitalise. Instead we conceded again. There were chances with tackles to regain possession as their No3 advanced down our right side but he held on and had the pace to take advantage. When the cross came in it was in that danger area on the left side of our box, their guy got to it first ahead of Sarr desperately trying to cover and scored.

That goal really did seem to deflate us in the final minutes of the first half. The players had put in so much effort in that spell for no reward and to go behind was a real kick in the teeth. It looked like a tough ask for Bowyer to get the team properly set up mentally for the crucial second half.

Two changes were made at the break, perhaps with an injury involved, with Field and Forster-Caskey making way for Williams and Morgan. Not long into the second half Aneke made his appearance for Davidson, who had given a good account of himself without getting any sniff of a chance to score.

Wigan were by now clearly playing in a more conservative fashion and the game was tighter as a result. The onus was of course on us and they probably felt they could sooner or later repeat their second goal and put the game beyond us. That didn’t happen but we were struggling to create opportunities. Williams won a free kick outside the box which Sarr took, forcing a save from their keeper, who also palmed away a cross to the far post which looked destined for Aneke, while Pearce – who was by now struggling on with an injury – headed over from a corner. Indeed, with about 10 minutes of normal time left he gave way for McGeady – and you felt we were getting into desperation mode.

It was getting more ragged and it seemed typical that the clock for 90 minutes ran out with Cullen on the ground being treated. Wigan were looking if not comfortable better able than us at Birmingham to run down the clock. Instead, out of the blue really, we got the leveller. A ball forward from Matthews was flicked on by Aneke and dropped to Bonne inside their box. Just how Wigan allowed him that space is something for their manager to bother about. This time Bonne had to react quickly and did, curling his effort into the far corner. It was a finish which for calmness and composure completely contrasted with the earlier miss.

That goal sparked a final few minutes when we might have nicked a winner, with Wigan looking confused as to whether they should go all out for another or look to take the point, and we finished off with a couple of corners which led to nothing.

At the end we didn’t (and still don’t) know whether to cheer or cry. That will be conditioned by the Hull-Luton result. The point could end up being massive or count for nothing. We will only know for sure on Wednesday.

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