Glensider Away At Wigan
Attendance: 18 806
Certainly not the Christmas Cracker that we experienced and enjoyed down at Stamford Bridge, but in atrocious conditions on an equally atrocious pitch, we dug deep, hung in there, and did enough to deservedly return to Brummagem with three more away points in the bag. It was never going to be a classic, and indeed it was far, far, far from being one, but none of the close to 6,000 jubilant Villans who made the trek north, will complain too long and loud about that fact.
With just the one change enforced upon us following the Boxing Day encounter, Curtis Davies replacing the suspended Zat Knight, it was to be hoped that we'd start at The JJB exactly as we left off at The Bridge, namely on the attack, and putting pressure onto the home side. It wasn't to be, and when Big John Carew was forced to leave the action after only ten minutes, following a foul by Scharner that surprisingly went unpunished by referee Webb, who apart from that one oversight had I thought a very good game, our game plan was obviously about to change. JC has been in a very good run of form lately, is an important part of this exciting team that Martin is putting together, and his loss was a definite blow. The departure of Big John saw Luke Moore enter the action, a move that surprised me somewhat, as I felt that under the circumstances, conditions etc., the presence of Marlon Harewood might have proved to be more beneficial. Anyhow such thoughts only prove exactly why Martin O'Neill is the Aston Villa manager, while yours truly remains a pharmaceutical sales representative.
Anyhow, back to the action, and lo and behold, with the boys in claret and blue struggling to get their act together, up steps Titus Bramble to power home a header from a superb corner from Wigan's very own David Beckham, well according to that very nice man Mr Bruce he is, Ryan Taylor. 1-0 down, and a long hard battle ahead to turn this one around. Half-time came as something of a relief. The home side deserved their lead, and frankly we had never really looked like pegging them back. We all knew though that we were more than capable of stepping up a gear or two, and had the players who were more than capable of turning the game on its head.
That is exactly as it turned out. Martin obviously geed the boys up with one of his inspirational half time talks, and we started the second half in a more determined mood, finally coming to terms with the tricky conditions, and, with no excuse for mentioning it again, that poor excuse of a pitch.
We pushed forward, finally taking the game to Bruce's battlers, and on fifty-five we were level, Curtis Davies heading home the equaliser from a Gareth Barry corner, on his first premiership start for the Midlands finest. Cue celebrations, both from the players, and the travelling hordes. His nightmare debut against Leicester City forgotten, the self-styled 'pub player' had come good, had arrived, and the Villans were well and truly back on track.
Shaun (will he ever play the full ninety?) Maloney was replaced by Craig Gardner on the hour, and within ten minutes we were ahead. Some superb wing-wizardry from Ashley Young, who up until then had had I thought, his quietest game for quite a while, set up Gabby, and his flicked header nestled into the back of the Latics net. 2-1 to the good-guys. Game over.
An important victory, our first three pointer in December, yet throughout the month we have played some quite impressive stuff, and arguably deserved a few more points on the board.
As for Bruce's Wigan. Well admittedly he (Brucie) has moved to a bigger club than the outfit he spent six years with, no arguments from me on that score, but even the most ardent and one eyed of Wigan supporters would surely agree that he has a huge job on his hands to keep The Latics in the top-flight. They battled, but look woefully short on quality. I was informed by my Wigan supporting hosts that he (Bruce) will have money to spend in January, but as I responded, having the cash to spend, and being able to persuade the better quality players to throw in their lot and move to The JJB, are two entirely different things.
Are We Ready For The Spurs? You Bet We Are!