Lady Luck has been a regular guest of Wigan Athletic this season, but where was she after half time on Saturday?
On an afternoon when Latics more than matched their Division One visitors, the old girl went AWOL and how costly it proved.
With her presence inside the JJB Stadium during the second half, surely Latics wouldn’t have conceded the game’s only goal deep into stoppage time.
Perhaps they would have been awarded one, if not two penalties, for fouls on Andy Liddell and Simon Haworth.
And certainly they would have found a way past Wolves keeper Michael Oakes who pulled off a string of fine saves after the interval.
But that’s the FA Cup for you, and it’s games like this which give the competition it’s appeal – despite the attempts of Manchester United and the AXA wildcard nonsense to spoil it this season.
While it was a cruel way that Carl Robinson snatched victory for the Molineux side in the 92nd minute, Latics can hold their heads up high.
After a hesitant start which fortunately saw Roy Carroll in fine form, they took the game to Wolves in confident fashion.
In the second half, they carved out a number of good chances and for a good while, an upset looked on the cards.
But up popped Welsh international Robinson to deny them their chance of glory, and what was even more frustrating was that he was only playing because regular midfielder Simon Osborne was suspended!
Latics went inot the game without top scorer Stuart Barlow who took a whack on the foot from Haworth in training on Friday.
He failed a fitness test on the morning of the game, so Haworth and Liddell formed the partnership up front, as John Benson reverted at last to a balanced 4-4-2 system.
Scott Green and Jeff Peron provided the width on either wing, with Roberto Martinez and Michael O’Neill tucking inside.
Skipper Carl Bradshaw filled the right back slot after proving his fitness against Burnley, lining up with Arjan de Zeeuw, Stuart Balmer and Kevin Sharp in a flat back four.
The early play belonged to Wolves with Carroll called into action as early as the third minute.
Balmer was pulled up for a foul on Neil Emblen just outside the box, and Andy Sinton’s curling free kick was turned around the post by Carroll at full stretch.
Darren Bazeley’s resulting corner was cleared as far as Emblen 20 yards out, who let fly with a stinging shot which Carroll acrobatically tipped over.
Latics refused to be intimidated by their visitors’ bright start, and went close themselves after eight minutes.
Peron’s fine pass sent Liddell clear on the left, the striker cut inside and sent a low pass across the face of goal which Lee Naylor cleared with Haworth closing in.
Carroll was busy again in the 21st minute, pushing a low shot from Australian forward Steve Corica around the near post, while Sharp headed clear a curling centre from Sinton just after.
Corica was denied by the keeper again five minutes before half-time, Carroll diving to his right to parry the 20 yard effort.
Moments before the break, Ade Akinbiyi knocked down a cross and Corica fired just wide of the target.
Latics grew in confidence after their half time cuppa, with Haworth twice heading wide in the opening six minutes.
After 58 minutes, the Welsh striker tried his luck with a shot on the run from 25 yards which Oakes only just got his gloves to with Liddell sniffing for the rebound.
Haworth was denied again four minutes later, Liddell robbing Keith Curle of possession to set him up on the edge of the box, but his shot clipped the legs of Robinson and fell just the wrong side of the post.
The game’s controversial moment arrived after 66 minutes when Carroll’s huge goal kick sailed over the top of the Wolves’ back line to send Liddell running clear.
His first touch as he arrived in the box was poor, but as he tried to regain his composure, former Latics trialist Ludovic Pollet stepped across his path and clearly gave Liddell a shove.
Referee Clive Wilkes waved away the appeals, but from my vantage point he was clearly wrong.
“I don’t complain about referees,” was Benson’s after match comment about the incident.
Wolves chief Colin Lee admitted: “Sometimes you get those decisions, sometimes you don’t, fortunately it went our way.”
Undettered Latics were only denied the lead in the 70th minute by a great piece of goalkeeping from Oakes.
Green’s cross from the right wing picked out Haworth in the box, he met it sweetly with a first time volley, but the keeper dived across to tip it around the post.
At the other end, a back pass from Sharp let in substitute Havard Flo on the right hand side of the box, but his first time shot from an acute angle was blocked by Carroll.
Latics’ second shout for a penalty came in the 90th minute, although it wasn’t as clear cut as Liddell’s earlier claim.
Haworth and Curle tangled for a through ball, with Haworth appealing he had been held back.
“Nay” said Mr. Wilkes, and the decision proved costly minutes later.
Wolves won their 11th corner of the game with 90 seconds of the two minutes injury time played.
Paul Simpson whipped over the flag kick from the left, and ROBINSON got in front of Sharp at the near post to bullet a header into the roof of the net from seven yards despite the efforts of O’Neill on the line.
A cruel end, but let’s not get too down about it.
Latics can now give their full attention to their promotion push and there’s still the Auto Windscreens Shield!
Match Report by Dave Seddon – Wigan Evening Post