An article titled like this one would usually be incredibly good news for Wigan Athletic, with the exceptions of the FA Cup third round and the world famous competition of the world’s smallest fan base of course.
Yet the relevance of the underdog on this occasion is at the top of the league, where teams from the bottom half of the league were the benefactors.
Typically, this was relatively bad news for Wigan as rivals were picking up points. Great.
The first shock occurred at Saturday lunchtime when Blackburn travelled to Old Trafford to face the Champions.
Despite their incredibly optimistic following, even Rovers’ supporters must have been expecting a defeat.
That’s not pessimistic as such, just realistic as they have a defence with more holes than a colander and a striker with the turning speed of a Boeing 747. Add that to an incompetent manager and you have a recipe for relegation.
Yet incredibly, Man Utd’s weakened eleven and possible complacency worked in Blackburn’s favour with their Jumbo Jet striker Yakubu bagging two goals to make it 2-0 to the visitors. It was enough for the home fans to spit out their prawn sandwiches and to throw their TV remote out of their armchair in disgust.
It was then that United exploited the gaps in Rovers’ backline and the in-form Dimitar Berbatov swept home two goals to bring the game level and allow the game to restore a sane scoreline.
Then it was time for the final twist in the tale; neither striker managed a hattrick and no genuine Mancunians were spotted in the stadium but Blackburn did manage a late equaliser.
It was down to Grant Hanley to head home a Morten Gamst Pedersen corner (which was legitimately taken, for once) and in doing so punished David De Gea for drifting too far into No Man’s Land (no, I’m not referring to the DW on a match day).
That meant that Blackburn had faced the mighty Man United and triumphed despite United’s nearly flawless home record and Rovers’ low league position.
The occurrences at Old Trafford had worked against Wigan as Blackburn overtook the Latics to take 18th spot. All wasn’t lost though, as our opponents on Wednesday were facing Man City and would be thrashed, leading to a subsequent fall in morale and an easy win for the Latics.
It all seemed a rather faultless plan, but phase one of the arrangement went wrong when Sunderland actually didn’t get thrashed by Man City, quite the opposite: they managed a shock 1-0 victory.
After falling asleep on my sofa whilst recovering from New Year’s Eve’s goings on, I was awoken by the roar from the Stadium of Light following Ji’s last gasp winner.
Man City followed United’s lead by losing after fielding a weakened team. Unlike their rivals however, who suffered many injuries and any changes were inforced; Roberto Mancini took the decision to rest many of his stars such as Silva, Aguero and Balotelli.
If City had won, it would have been branded a masterstroke and a demonstration of City’s vast strength in depth (by Alan Hansen anyway). Yet the 1-0 defeat has left City level at the top of the league and the opportunity of a three point lead developing was lost.
Despite having key players on the bench, a team including Samir Nasri, Adam Johnson and Edin Dzeko is still adequate enough to gain a victory from a depleted Sunderland eleven, especially when you consider a team containing Ben Watson, Franco Di Santo and Gary Caldwell did so weeks previously.
Yet Sunderland, despite the hindrance of having make-shift full backs and Nicklas Bendtner up front, fought impressively to earn a well earned win. The victory displayed the great motivation provided by Martin O’Neill’s infectious enthusiasm, the binary opposite of the lack of motivation shown under Steve Bruce.
It was either that, or Sunderland’s ex-United contingent (Richardson, Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown…) had an impact, for all you conspiracy theorists out there.
Other shocks at the weekend include Villa’s 3-1 away win at Villas Boas’ faltering Chelsea; Scott Sinclair’s late equaliser to deny a Spurs victory and as I write this, Fulham lead Arsenal 2-1 in injury time.
For the Latics, our fixture contained no big team nor a huge shock result but a well deserved point at the Britannia.
If Stoke is considered such a hard place to go to (in reference to the team’s performance, not the poverty surrounding the stadium) then Wigan can take positives from the fact they’re unbeaten there in the last three away meetings.
This fixture usually produces something special, think back to Figueroa’s half way line screamer and Rodallega’s header to ensure survival and you’ll consider the Britannia a rather pleasant place to visit as a Latics fan.
Once Victor Moses had fired Wigan ahead late in the first half, Wiganers could have been forgiven for presuming three points were on their way.
Yet the pessimists amongst us realised their predictions came true when Stoke came back to take the lead through a Jonathan Walters penalty and a goal from substitute Cameron Jerome, a striker whose prolific goal scoring ability has produced a highly impressive three goals in his last 41 appearances. That didn’t stop him finding a way through Wigan’s watertight defence.
This, coupled with Gary Caldwell’s red card, meant Latics were staring down the barrel of another defeat.
Yet this disappointment was spared once Martinez brought his secret weapon Ben Watson off the bench.
So when Hugo Rodallega was felled in the box by Ryan Shotton in injury time, there was only one man who was up to the job.
Watson fired home the equaliser, earning Latics a point and sparing Caldwell’s blushes in the process. This was despite the fact he’s missed his last two penalties and Wigan have previously missed a penalty on that very ground (by Hugo Rodallega in December 2009).
Whilst earning Wigan a draw, Watson also broke two records (according to Jayt) by becoming the first Premier League player to score a penalty with his first touch in a match and scoring the quickest goal by a substitute.
Now that’s what makes him a wonder player, but does anyone know why Jordi Gomez didn’t take the kick considering his recent impressive penalty record?
Answers on a postcard please.
Goal of the Week: When you go nearly five years without a goal and are coming back from a 10 month injury lay off, the best way to dispense of the agony is to score a wonder goal, and that’s exactly what Sam Ricketts did with a screamer in Bolton’s 1-1 draw with Wolves.
Lee McCulloch of the Week: Craig Bellamy’s two goals for Liverpool in their 3-1 over his former club Newcastle was the bright spark in a rather flat game. That was until Gerrard entered the arena and changed the game to eclipse Bellamy and earn Man of the Match. Yet I think this award means more, doesn’t it Craig?
Lee Cattermole of the Week: As opposed to Ricketts’ perfect response to adversity, Frank Lampard did his chances of first team action no favours when he gave Villa their third goal through Darren Bent on a plate.
Quote of the Week: Phil Thompson’s expert analysis of Fernando Torres’ form was excellent “This is not good for a £50 million player” This is no doubt a highly detailed report of what was previously a hazy topic but has now been made fully apparent to us by Thompson’s intellectual breakdown of events.
Boselli Watch: Mauro has repotedly taken out a super injection in convenient timing with the splitting of couples Russell Brand and Katy Perry and Katherine Jenkins and Alid Jones. You can work out the rest.