Welcome, my dear Laticians, to the Margarine Zone.
Moments before your freshly buttered slice of lovingly-prepared toast hits the filth-encrusted kitchen floor with a sickening bliff-spludge, you have a very brief opportunity to prevent the seemingly inescapable.
If you actually manage to grab the toast, you feel incredible for the rest of the day. You instantly become Latics circa April 2012, completely pushing aside your own insecurities and inabilities to become the greatest sporting team this side of Roberto Martinez’s second holiday home. Or in your case: the number one paperclipper in your office, the speediest stapler this side of Wernham Hogg.
At this moment in the history of Wigan Athletic, as we reach Christmas 2016, that oh-so-tempting toast is spinning before our weary, eggnog-afflicted eyes.
Thankfully, however, it is doing so quite slowly, as that slice of semi-burned bread will take about two weeks to finally find the ground. We’re now entering that period of super slow motion that your brain’s video editor applies just prior to the toast leaving your hands.
And now a suitably festive metaphor.
In your latest sugar-induced hyperactive race through the house, you happen to catch your mother wrapping Christmas presents. She confirms that the Segabox Supertendo is indeed yours and you shall receive it on 25th December. How very thrilling!
But once the day arrives, she snatches the box away from you and claims it was for your cousin all along… after you’ve opened it. Your Christmas, nay entire childhood is totally destroyed, and all your wicked mother can do is laugh uncontrollably.
And that, my friends (and enemies), was Wigan Athletic vs. Ipswich Town.
…D’alright then, I’ll explain further.
A necessary enemy
Keith Stroud may have been verbally abused from certain quarters for awarding a mildly objectionable penalty, which Brett Pitman skilfully slid beyond Jussi’s reach. But it was precisely this perceived wrongdoing that prodded the hosts into an uncharacteristic spell of much-needed forward thinking.
Granted, they appeared defensively disjointed. But that was not due to any particular stimuli as such – because of an all-new ‘ultra-aggressive’ 4-4-2 lineup, Latics sometimes found themselves a man light in their own penalty area.
For now, however, those insecurities were firmly enclosed in a Max Power-shaped box. He literally smashed ‘keeper Bartosz Białkowski deep into his own goal netting with the most destructive strike witnessed at the DW Stadium for months – not least because Yanic Wildschut was in just the right place to hammer home the rebound.
Well… at this stage of goal starvation, I suppose a 2cm tap-in would have counted as ‘destructive’.
Over the next 25 minutes, Yanic rose to the rank of footballing god. With sprinting ability like his, one questions why he even bothers passing, because he honestly ought to have scored three individual hat-tricks this afternoon.
Without fail, Ostrich Man would utterly bamboozle every defender that dared to lurk within 3 metres, intelligently playing the ball through their legs on his fast path to goal. In one instance he actually managed to find the top corner of the South Stand net, a richly earned second that only began to describe his sheer domination and orchestration of those utterly mesmerised full-backs.
“Hey, we can do that too! And better.”
But the canny Tractor Dudes were well aware that a single opportune breakaway could fetch them an equaliser. And they’d watched enough grainy VHS recordings to know that the aforementioned Dutch genius is of much less use at his own end of the pitch.
Besides, one accurate finish is objectively better than 10 incredible runs that lead to crosses with nobody to push the ball over the goal line.
The thing is, Pitman *was* present to guide David McGoldrick’s ‘cross’ past a dumbfounded Jussi J. Which was one heck of a feat, because by this point a gloopy fog of glucose drink thickness had completely descended, making it nigh on impossible to even move.
If the visitors’ second goal removed half of Wigan’s willpower, their third pulped what remained to a mush resembling that cruddy filler you get in cheap pies. A short passage of calm interplay was perfectly complemented by McGoldrick’s tidy, majestic header, a thoroughly satisfying climax to another late pantry raid.
In all, a victory for careful planning and finesse that tastes great with Mum’s home made sprout sauce. You know, the stuff that makes that sorry excuse for a vegetable remotely palatable.
Something to believe in
Now, I believe I was about to elaborate upon that obtuse bait-and-switch metaphor.
It hurts more to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. In other words, those two long-awaited goals might have been fun, but they just made this loss infinitely more difficult to accept.
And by that token, I now see the merits in coolly frustrating your opponents before selectively picking them apart in the final stages. Shortsman Joycey, I’m about ready to believe your ‘grab a last minute winner’ theory!
A Christmas toast to the cruel Championship
To those worrying about Wigan Athletic’s mid-term future, remember this: that toast will objectively taste exactly the same. It is only because you witnessed it lying on that slime-covered abomination you call a kitchen floor that you think it’s going to be any worse. It’s a construct of your mind; you probably won’t die.