Date: 31st May 2011 at 10:20am
Written by:

First in a series of articles by Vital Latics members, in this one Paul Thorp, aka Thorpyness, looks back at the late, late, show for the reasons behind all those points lost in the dying embers of games, many people accuse the Latics of ‘not being fit enough` or simply ‘not interested`, his findings make very interesting reading, over to you Paul:

One of the accusations that were laid at the feet of the management team at the start of the season was that we were just not fit enough, or just not interested enough. Based upon the first two games of the season, I don’t think there would be many that would argue against the point. Seeing the replays of Manchester United`s European cup win in ’99 during the build up to this year`s final, I thought I’d look into our record this season, examine the facts and weigh them up against my feelings.

The comparisons are interesting, and before you read further, please cast your mind back over the season and think of the significant late goals that you can remember, significant in the sense that they changed the destination of the points, ignoring consolation goals. I did this myself before digging out the stats. After a quick think, I came up with five.

Aside from what I think are the two obvious ones (or recent ones if I’m being totally honest – Maynor against Birmingham and Charlie against West Ham), there were 3 others that sprang to my mind.

Giving up points at Newcastle, Everton at home with Hugo and his ‘handy’ work. The last one being Chelsea and their ill deserved ‘late’ winner. I then looked for goals that were scored from the 80th minute onwards, which immediately discounted the 67th minute ‘I’ll hold the keeper back, while you score’ performance by Torres and Malouda, It was as early as the 67th minute. I was also surprised to discover that the penalty conceded by Hugo was only in the 78th Minute, but that’s at least closer to the cut off mark I’d chosen.

First the bad, we conceded 10 goals after the 80th minute, which is more than one every 4 games.

Chelsea scored 2 in the 0-6

Newcastle the late equaliser at their place, Wolves in our 2-1 win at home, in the home game against Fulham, Andy Johnson got an 87th minute equaliser, Arsenal got one late in the 3-0 at the Emirates the game after Fulham. Blackburns 3rd in the 4-3 came in the 81st Minute.

United scored late on twice in the 0-4 at the DW. Finally Blackpool`s consolation at Bloomfield was in the 83rd minute.

How many of the significant ones did you remember? Despite the fact we conceded 10 goals, only 2 had a bearing on the result. It cost us just 4 points (2 wins dropped to draws), and we didn’t ever lose a game late on. Whilst I felt we were never that bad at the end, this surprised even optimistic me. Those of you that have read my posts in the run in will notice that I commented that the team delivered when it really mattered, so I was confident they would pull through. I now think that this is one of the reasons why I had such confidence, when there was something to play for we played for it, and got it.

I was mentally writing off the goals where the game was lost already without realising it. The last meaningful goal conceded during the last 10 minutes of a game was as far back as 15th January, you remember when the snow was everywhere. The ‘dropping’ of 2 points and only getting 1 in the home game to Fulham contributed to what I think we got ourselves into genuine trouble this season – January, during this month we only picked up 2 points from 5 games. At the start of the season, we at least still picked the points up despite the poor shows.

As for goals scored by us in the last 10 minutes of games the picture is much better.

Our first points came courtesy of a late winner. Hugo’s first points winning goal of the season, 80th Minute at White Hart Lane. Antolin Alcaraz`s late equaliser against Sunderland in the very next game meant that at this early stage of the season, four games in, we’d only picked up points with significant late goals. Hugo cemented the points against Wolves with a late second, though 10 man Wolves never looked like scoring in a 2-0 win. This was the game where Karl Henry put NASA on alert by launching Jordi Gomez into orbit.

Sandwiched between an 86th minute Tom Cleverley consolation against West Ham, and an 80th minute James McCarthy one against Villa was Ronnie Stam’s only goal of the season, earning a battling draw at Bolton. This was the other point we gained in January, and was as much thanks to Mike Pollitt`s heroics as it was Stams goal.

Of the last three late goals we scored, the least important one was Franco’s consolation against Sunderland. But to go with that were two beauties, Maynor Figueroa, secured the full three points with his winner against Birmingham, on one of those afternoons where we kept knocking on the door and it took something a bit different to open it. As Alex McLeish said, he took them by surprise as he stands on that foot.

Of course the last occasion is the one that will live long in the memory banks, as it was Charlie’s lifeline, which was thrown to us at the death, during the last home game of the season. It set us up for the not quite qualifying as a late goal, but the latest and most important goal of the season, Hugo’s 78th minute survival securing winner at the freezing Britannia stadium.

In total I count that as three draws upgraded to wins, and two battling draws. 8 points gained against the 4 points ‘dropped’ suggests we have bottle and stomach for the fight, not to mention fitness as well. Also noted is the fact that the first and last points of the season were 1-0 away wins courtesy of Hugo Rodallega goals.

Paul Thorp

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