To state it has been an eventful few weeks since the Latics last took to the field a fortnight ago would be somewhat of an under statement. Thankfully though Saturday afternoon saw a welcome return to action against a Middlesborough team riding high under a former apprentice of Jose Mourinho.
It would however be remiss not to put into context this fixture given the current furore. Following a woeful and embarrassing defeat at Bolton Uwe Rosler was backed then later sacked by Chairman Dave Whelan. His replacement was Malky MacKay. In seeking to defend this appointment our beloved Chairman found himself in the eye of a storm, unfairly and cruelly vilified and crucified by the British press for having the temerity to give someone a second chance. In seeking to provide support to the man, he fell foul of a vicious media campaign, ignoring the tremendous work both he and the club do in the community to support a biased agenda.
No one knew what to expect on Saturday, perhaps least of all the Chairman. He took his seat in the executive box just prior to kick off. What happened next was extraordinary. Slowly and spontaneously the supporters in the stand just stood and applauded the man. This spread to the other two home stands and every man, woman and child just stood and clapped the man for quite some considerable time. It moved him to tears and the emotion of this moment was just incredible and just demonstrated the warmth, respect and gratitude all Wigan Athletic supporters hold for this incredible gentleman.
Mackays entrance was just as under stated. A quick wave and clap to the crowd which was warmly reciprocated before he took his place on the bench. The most notable changes from the Bolton fixture was the return to the starting line up of Chris McCann after 9 months out, the return of Captain and club legend Emerson Boyce at right back and Taylor at left back. Middlesborough backed by 5000 followers started the most composed without troubling Carson. Latics perhaps understandably started cautiously before a tremendous driving run from the returning McCann saw him tripped on the edge of the box. Maloney stepped up and hit the bar from the free kick. An identical run saw another free kick in the same spot around 24 minutes in. This time Maloney adjusted the radar and found the top corner. Latics remained comfortable for the rest of the half, one Kike effort aside, and almost doubled their lead before the break when Forshaw saw a long distance strike just fall the wrong side of the post.
The second half brought much of the same. Fortune blazed over from around 10 yads and a minute later Boro drew level when substitute Patrick Bamford found the bottom corner after evading the challenge of Ivan Ramis. Latics didn’t feel sorry for themselves and in all honesty should have scored a second. Barnett hit the post and the otherwise excellent McCann blazed over when it seemed easier to score. A few half hearted Boro penalty appeals in the dying stages saw the game finish level.
That result saw Latics drop to second from bottom an unacceptable position given the talent at the club. One effort on target tells its own story. Fortune as a lone front man isn’t the answer and hopefully the new manager will swiftly realise and solve this conundrum to help us pull away from the relegation zone. Many positives however from today, Maloney was excellent and McMann provided a midfield display that has been sadly lacking since Mcarthur departed for pastures new.
The game won’t be remembered for the scoreline. It will however be remembered for the emotional and touching welcome afforded to the man who has achieved what most would have considered impossible at this club. Dave Whelan, all Wigan Athletic supporters thank you and stand united behind you.
Latics – Carson, Taylor, Ramis, McCann, Maloney, McManaman, Boyce (Perch 83), Espinoza (McClean 70), Barnett, Forshaw (Watson 82), Fortune
Unused subs – Nicholls, Riera, Huws, Figueroa
Middlesbrough – Konstantopoulos, Friend, Ayala, Gibson, Leadbitter, Clayton, Kike (Wildschut 82), Tomlin, Reach (Bamford 56), Nsue (Fredericks 70), Adomah
Unused subs – Mejias, Husband, Whitehead, Vossen