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97/98: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 2, 4/4/98
Wigan Athletic 3(3)
Scorers: Barlow (12), Lowe (25), Kilford (40)
Watford 2(0)
Team: Chamberlain 3, Bazeley 2, Robinson 1, Kennedy 4, Millen 1, Page 1, Mooney 2, Palmer 3, Hyde 3, Lee 2, *Johnson 4*
Subs: Hazan (for Robinson) 3, Noel Williams (for Lee) 3, Foley (for Millen) 4
Scorers: Foley (54), Hyde (80)
Report by Ian Lay

The title sums it up completely. Our defence went walkies. I cannot remember the last time we were taken apart so easily as on Saturday.

Things started badly, and got worse. The fact that we only went in 3-0 down at half time was a blessing. It could easily have been six or seven. Wigan took full advantage of our obvious uneasiness with the conditions and gave us a lesson in fast, direct and exciting attacking football. We were continually trying to scramble the ball away from good accurate crosses into our penalty area. But, unlike earlier in the season, we just don't seem capable of clearing our lines. The first goal came from such a scramble. The ball wasn't cleared properly and the ball came loose for a Wigan player to blast home from about seven yards.

The first goal was messy, but the second was very well taken. A ball played into a Wigan player on the edge of the box, with his back to the goal. He was allowed time to control it, flick the ball up, turn and shoot past a very annoyed Chamberlain. The guy had so much time (even though he had Page on his back and several defenders around him) it was unreal. All our players seemed to stand there and say "Go on, mate, show us your ball skills". And he duly obliged.

Their third came just as we were trying to get back into the game. A cross from the right which eluded everyone and the Wigan player was unmarked at the back of the six yard area to blast home. By then I was too annoyed to care.

I seriously considered leaving at half time. I was that fed up. But, being the eternal optimist and remembering what happened against Bolton, I didn't give up hope. I knew if we got an early goal then we stood a chance of getting something out the game.

Changes were made at half time. Millen, who had played truly awfully in the first half, went off and Foley came one. And he made an instant impact. Within about five minutes of the restart we pulled a goal back. A cross from the left from Kennedy was only half cleared, and Foley sent a spectacular overhead/bicycle kick shot into the top corner.

And then for the next fifteen or twenty minutes it was all Watford. Johno had a long range effort (which was going in) blocked and from the follow up Foley hit a shot goal bound only to be deflected over the bar. Palmer also had a shot deflected over the bar from about eight yards out. In addition Foley hit two curling shots from the right hand side of the box just wide.

Then Wigan began to get a bit more into the game possession-wise and we struggled to create further chances. Just when it looked like we were not going to get a second, we did. Similar in fashion to Wigan's first, there was a scramble in the box and a shot hit the post and bounced out. Hyde was first to react and poked the ball home. Cue wild celebrations and hope that a miracle might still be possible.

And with time running out, and into injury time it looked like we were going to get it. Johno set Kennedy free on the left, he cut inside to the edge of the box and sent a low shot in. Their keeper could only palm the ball out to Noel-Williams who slotted the ball home. Cue very wild celebrations. But it wasn't to be. The linesmen had his flag up for offside. I can only imagine it was Gifton. But even then I don't see how as there appeared to be a defender near to the goal line.

So from absolute misery, to incredible joy, back to misery again.... Sounds like a normal working week doesn't it. Work, go home, work, go home....etc.

To the players.

Alec couldn't do anything about the goals. Early on it was so wet that any keeper would have had trouble handling the ball, but he did his best and pulled off some useful saves as well.

Millen, Page and Mooney were truly awful in the first half and didn't have much chance to redeem themselves in the second as Wigan didn't get much of a look in. Only Mooney came out of the game with any credit, basically because he continued to battle and did fairly well going forward.

Bazeley was very quiet and definitely at fault for the third goal when he failed to pick the Wigan player at the back post. Looked better in the second half (but then they all did).

Robinson was subbed early on. I think mainly because he got booked after about ten minutes. Then he made two further dodgy tackles on the wet surface, and GT obviously thought that he was going to get himself sent off if he stayed on. Hazan came on for Robinson and had a good game. He gets better with each game. Still misplacing passes (doesn't everyone) but you can see the skill and he can cross a ball very well.

Hyde had an in and out game. Certainly when the sun came out he played better. It seems that what they said about him at Cambridge is true. Maybe we could play all our games in Spain, that would solve the problem.

Palmer also did okay. A little slow, but looks more comfortable at the back at the moment than Millen does.

Johno had an excellent game despite what was happening around him. He was also my man of the match. He sprayed the ball to both wings in the second half to keep our momentum going. And also did a very good job of breaking down the Wigan counter attacks and help us keep the pressure on. Like the others he had a poorer first half, but it wasn't as poor as most.

Lee won most things in the air but kept heading the ball to the oppo. I don't necessarily believe this thing about having someone playing along side him that can read him. How can you read someone who doesn't know half the time where he is heading the ball?

Kennedy was the only other player (with Johno) who had a good game. He struggled with lack of service in the first half when playing up front with Lee, but in the second half he pushed further wide to the left and looked more dangerous. His crossing was good and caused lots of problems.

Foley came on a half time and did everything that could be expected of him. He looked more alert than Lee and looked more likely to score than Lee. He did score one, could have had another couple with a bit more luck and had his best performance for the Horns. Him up front and Kennedy wide were the differences that enabled us to get back in the game coupled with Noel-Williams coming on later for Lee.

So what lessons have we learned? Well, for one I think that the wing-back system doesn't work very well away from home. A traditional 4-4-2 would be much better. But, more importantly, attack is the best form of defence. We shouldn't be giving sides any time to settle. We should be going at them as if we are starting the game 3-0 down and there is nothing to lose. This is the way GT used to get his sides to play, let's hope he can get them to do it again.

All said and done, though, it was a good afternoon's entertainment. All the goals were down our end, but we did get soaked like at Bristol Rovers earlier in the season. Just this time we didn't get the result to make up for being soggy.