Wigan were made to work hard in their Fourth Round FA Cup tie against non-league opponents Macclesfield, but did just enough to see themselves safely through to the last 16 for only the second time in their history.
The game wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but a unique experience for the 2200 travelling Latics fans who made the 35-mile trip to Moss Rose, who will be more used to seeing us play in all-seater stadiums with ‘state-of-the-art’ facilities these days.
As expected, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez opted to rest many of our first team players, and give youngsters like Fyvie, McManaman and Golobart another run-out. There was also a debut start for Spanish keeper Joel Robles on loan from Atletico Madrid, and a notable absentee in Mauro Boselli, which would confirm rumours of an imminent move to Palermo.
Latics got off to the perfect start when they were awarded a penalty inside six minutes. An excellent crossfield ball by Gomez found McManaman, who beat his marker with ease before being hacked down in the penalty area – referee Roger East won’t award a clearer penalty than this one all season. Gomez stepped up to take the spot kick, and although Macclesfield’s on-loan keeper Joe Anyon got a hand to it, there was enough power in the penalty to take it past him and into the net.
The goal seemed to settle Latics down more quickly than their opponents, with the visitors enjoying more possession during the first 30 minutes of the match. Wigan had chances to double their lead when McManaman’s effort went narrowly wide, and Henriquez firing just over after capitalising on a defender’s mistake.
Macclesfield grew in confidence towards the end of the first half however, with winger Jack Mackreth causing problems on Wigan’s left hand side. In the 39th minute, a penalty shout for the home side was turned down, a decision which Macclesfield manager Steve King was furious about in the post-match interviews. From the resulting corner, the Silkmen should have had an equaliser anyway, but Audel’s header was straight at the keeper. Despite this late onslaught, Latics retained their one-goal lead going into half time.
Almost immediately after the break, Latics had a great opportunity to extend their lead when Dicko raced through on goal, but his effort was blocked by Anyon. Latics’ changed their formation following injuries to Fyvie and Dicko, and as the second half wore on, they struggled to threaten their opponents with any regularity. The home side themselves weren’t able to test Joel often enough however, although they were looking the more likely to score at this point.
The hosts had another penalty claim waved away late in the game, though this decision looked less dubious than the one in the first half. Latics had to withstand some considerable pressure at this point, particularly from set pieces, but were able to see off the final minutes of the game without incident.
Overall, the performance wasn’t the best, but results are what matter in cup football and we’re through to the next round. With Latics only being two more wins away from a trip to Wembley, a favourable draw could make hopes of a good cup run become reality.
Macclesfield –Macclesfield: Anyon, Jackson, Brown, Mackreth, Murtagh, Barnes-Homer, Wedgbury, Kissock (Winn 78), Fairhurst (McDonald 76), Braham-Barrett, Audel
Subs not used – Morgan-Smith, Mills, Diagne, Henry, Martin
Latics – Robles, Henriquez, Gomez, McManaman, Espinoza, Fyvie (Jones 53), Stam, Golobart, Mustoe, Dicko (Lopez 66), Figueroa
Subs not used – Al Habsi, Redmond, Maloney, Campabadal, McArthur