|TUESDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2020
Moukoudi (76 og)s/o Dunkley (62)
SHOTS (on target)
|Wing (64, 68)
Wingless in Wigan
Boro travelled across the wild, windy and wintry Pennines to the home of the famous Pier tonight in an effort to push Wigan nearer to League One football next season whilst taking a step in preserving our own Championship status. No new injury concerns for Woodgate but still too soon for Shotton or Friend to return to first team action. Both of these sides had lost at the weekend, Boro away to high flying Bretford and Wigan in a local derby against another Play Off chaser Preston who incidentally were the last side that Boro beat way back on January 1st. Ominously the Latics had secured back-to-back wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United in their previous two league matches before Preston so tonight was going to be hard fought.
Boro team news indicated that Woodgate was going with a back four again with Spence still benched but Morrison coming in for Johnson and Britt starting in place of Tavernier. Moukoudi had understandably kept his place in the line-up after his performance on Saturday.
Wigan kicked off on an absolutely freezing night with the wind cutting the fans in two and the corner flags struggling to remain upright. Moukoudi was in the action early on clearing his lines from Moore in the opening minute. A long distance shot from Williams warmed Pears’ hands from distance winning a corner as Wigan clearly felt they could get something from this fixture. Lewis Wing cleared the corner but it came back into the box with Dunkley perhaps fortuitously adjudged to have fouled a despairing Pears as he came out for the cross. Boro had once again started slowly with little endeavour in the opening stages. A nervy mistake from Moukoudi had to be rescued by Fry on eight minutes as the home side settled first.
A corner to Boro just before the tenth minute after a few Morrison step overs was delivered in by McNair but it led to little of note and Kipre hoofed the danger clear for Wigan taking no chances in the wind which was clearly having an influence out on the pitch. A short free kick for Boro was delivered into the Wigan box by Coulson after receiving it from McNair but the Left Back followed that up by conceding a free kick to Wigan almost immediately.
Howson needed to be sharp to clear in the Boro six-yard box as suspect Coulson defending allowed a half chance for the home side. There was a frustrating sense of déjà vu as Wigan seemed to be having joy down the flanks just as Brentford had done on Saturday. A break from Howson however did see Boro take “the lead” via Fletcher but as it hit the underside of the net via the cross bar it was adjudged to have been offside. It looked very tight and Boro’s in-form marksman could consider himself unlucky.
The opening quarter of an hour had passed with Wigan looking the more likely to score but that Fletcher offside chance would hopefully create some doubt in the Wigan backline and boost the otherwise sterile Boro mentality. Howson again put a great ball in this time aimed for Assombalonga but his shot was blocked and Coulson’s snap follow up was blocked just as quickly. Just over twenty fine minutes played now and the resultant wind assisted corner from McNair swooped tantalisingly under the bar but some sort of infringement was seen by the Officials and Marshall in the Wigan goal was spared any blushes.
A cross from Wing on twenty-five minutes failed to beat the first Wigan defender going out for a corner to Boro which of course was delivered badly and the action immediately swung down the opposite end towards Aynsley Pears. Half an hour gone and it was certainly no classic, it looked exactly what it was, a game from the bottom half of the Championship. A poor Wigan clearance from Byrne was picked up by Wing but his ball was very wayward and Wigan once again attacked down the left wing. Moore played a ball into the Boro danger area to Jacobs who found Morsy on the edge of the Boro box who stroked a daisy cutter ball across a helpless Pears to put Wigan ahead on twenty-nine minutes.
Wigan streamed forward again after the restart as they now clearly had some belief as Boro on the other hand looked weak in midfield and indecisive at the back trying to clear their heads. A series of Boro throw ins on thirty-five minutes came to nothing as poor touches perhaps mischievously intercepted by the wind summed up the travelling army’s frustrations. Boro’s passing had lacked serious conviction and apart from the Fletcher offside attempt we hadn’t really tested Marshall in the Wigan goal. Having all the possession and passing it around without threatening or looking dangerous was playing into Paul Cooks game plan. Looking for positives I suppose the dipping corner that was blown for a foul could maybe have masqueraded as an effort on target. A wild cross from the by-line from Lewis Wing summed up the evening as his ball likely finished up with snow on it.
The Wigan youngsters William and Geldhart were impressively running around covering every blade of grass with Kiefer Moore putting himself about causing us problems. A bit of slick inter-passing on the edge of the Latics box from Boro saw a weak penalty claim that went out for a throw in and as the ball came back in Coulson hit another double effort responding to the first block with an effort which flew over the Wigan crossbar. Coulson worked a great ball in to Britt but he somehow stumbled over it. Boro then came back via a series of one twos and a shot that didn’t make the net bulge but it was at least a marked improvement.
A last-minute first half cross by Morrison saw Assombalonga totally misjudge the flight and the less said about it the better. The whistle went to end proceedings in what was another disjointed performance from Boro. We had plenty of the ball but done nothing of note with it and certainly not where it counted. Passing the ball about prettily is one thing but being totally ineffective with it was never going to seriously threaten Wigan. Howson and Coulson were providing width of sorts but any of our final balls into the box looked more speculative rather than intentional against an up until now resolute Latics defence
Once again for some reason there were a few Boro players who cruised through the first half looking anonymous. A massive shake up was required for the second half. Before tonight’s kick off we were seven points clear of Wigan in the relegation spots, a draw would maintain that, a win would make that a very healthy ten-point gap but a defeat as it stood meant a narrow and a very edgy four-point separation.
As the teams took to the pitch for the second half surely, we would now see a fired up Boro looking to get back into this. Britt so far wasn’t linking with Fletcher, Morrison was busy but it didn’t look like his team mates knew what to do with him and we lacked the balance and pace that Spence provides down the right but of course that would mean a back three or five and unlikely to happen. Our recent ability to fight back would need to be to the fore for the next forty-five minutes if we were to get something out of this game.
There were no changes for either side as Boro kicked off with temperatures dropping quickly. Coulson was “done” again defensively and as the ball came into the Boro box there were appeals for a hand ball against Saville from around the sparsely populated DW Stadium. If Boro had a rollicking or a change of intent at half time it certainly wasn’t evident based on those first five minutes. The most excitement in fact was a conversation between the Ref Oliver Langstone and Wigan Manager Paul Cook.
A Naismith cross that fizzed across the Boro goalmouth thankfully evaded everyone in Blue and thankfully those in Red shirts as well after Saturday’s unlucky Moukoudi deflection. Britt found Wing who tried to find Fletcher and Kipre then barged in unceremoniously on Wing ending rolling around on the freezing turf. The free kick was delivered in by Wing himself but Moukoudi couldn’t get anything on it as Boro still seemed unconvincingly laboured.
Kipre was involved again straining to cut out a Coulson cross and as the corner came in Ravel Morrison got something on it in what looked like a rare rehearsed set piece from Boro with everyone decoy running into the box but the outcome was a goal kick. Moukoudi brought Moore down as he ran through with our hearts in mouths as Ref Langstone reached for a Yellow in what might have been a Red depending on his interpretation of Fry’s potential speed of intervention in sweeping up. Naismith blasted the ball past the wall and the net rippled but fortunately it was the outside of Pears’ side netting. Nmecha then came on for the misfiring Britt which was an improvement in theory but still didn’t address the lack of pace when attacking and the ability to get the ball wide, stretch the defence and get crosses in.
Dunkley then earned a second Yellow for a challenge on Wing on sixty-three minutes. Another card was then immediately issued to Paul Cook on the touchline who had obviously disagreed with Ref Langstone’s opinions and earned himself a Yellow. Wing took the free kick, blasted a trademark Exocet and as it deflected off the wall Marshall was left helpless seeing the ball spin past him and the scores now level at 1-1. Balogun then came on for Wigan at the back as Geldhart was sacrificed by Cook. Ten men, the scores now level and Boro had a golden opportunity presented to them.
The atmosphere warmed up the evening with the home fans orchestrated by Cook’s antics convinced they had been robbed and cheated. Boro meanwhile settled back into their slippers and a sloppy back pass to Pears had clenched buttocks in the away end. Then as fate would decree Lewis Wing found space from twenty yards out, pulled the trigger and the ball dipped skidding viciously past the embarrassed Marshall. Naismith then entered Langstone’s book for rushing the restart and arguing with the Official with Red shirts still in the Wigan half. Morrison then made way for Tavernier, lingering his departure having put in an interesting shift giving some potential chinks of bright light deep within.
Saville then upped the growing card count with a challenge allowing Pilkington to emulate Wing except it was first half Lewis Wing and the ball sailed well wide and into the bleak nothingness of the night sky. Saville was then on the receiving end of a kick from Morsy earning a Boro free kick and a chance to delay things slightly with a quarter of an hour remaining. Just as Boro looked like returning to Teesside with all three points a cross from our left fizzed across the Boro goal mouth to see Moukoudi diving to connect and send it past Pears to make it 2-2. He met it brilliantly but unfortunately at the wrong end, that’s two games and two O.G.s for the loanee.
That unaddressed weakness on the flank was exploited again, even with ten men for the second game in succession. A Wigan corner saw Naismith unleash a shot on eighty minutes requiring Pears to get down to smother the threat. Tavernier then stepped up to earn a Yellow as he complained about a decision that went against him. That equaliser clearly had the effect of a huge discharge of hope on Boro. Looking dispirited enough Jamal Lowe was brought on by Cook for Pilkington in an effort to further stretch that suspect Boro back four.
Wing then played in Saville and tried to connect as it came back in going out for a Corner which was booted clear unceremoniously by the Wigan defence. Another Boro corner was taken short but overhit giving Nmecha no chance to meet it as hopes of a third faded. Jacobs then went off for
Wigan, bringing Massey on as Cook now sensing blood wasn’t remotely concerned about going down to ten men. Immediately Massey collected a weak Tavernier ball, passing Howson who took him down to earn another Yellow card. Up came the big lads from the back as Naismith sent it into the Boro box but Saville cleared and Naismith fortunately couldn’t capitalise on his follow up.
Saville found Wing in space who tried to get his hat trick but his eye was well off target and it went out. Spence now came on for a hobbling Fry with just a minute of the ninety remaining. Five minutes came up on the fourth Officials board to accommodate those cards, substitutions and some time wasting. Next it was the Wigan sub Massey entering Langstone’s book as the card count continued growing.
Nmecha was gifted a late opportunity but he failed to connect and back came Wigan earning a throw in in the Boro half. The throw-in bounced off Fletcher resulting in a late, late corner. Naismith over-delivered it but Nmecha sent it out for another corner on the opposite side where this time Fletcher headed it clear but back came Wigan and somewhere in the chaos a Yellow Flag went up to prevent an ominous late Wigan winner. The final whistle went to a chorus of boos and jeers directed at the Ref who the home fans clearly felt had been less than even handed with his card distribution.
So 2-2 it ended and the seven-point gap maintained between the two but it was another less than convincing Boro performance. Another dire first half and an improved but still not great second half and against ten men for a large part of the game. It was noticeable that despite having a man disadvantage Wigan still remained a threat and Boro never looked like taking advantage of their extra man. There were no real stand out performers from a poor Boro but the MOM can’t go to anyone other than Lewis Wing for his second half goals.