With two late goals, Roman Pavlyuchenko showed what he can do very well
and sealed a good three away points for Tottenham on a pitch that was
more cut up than the meat in the famous Wigan pies.
As it was, the flag-waving home fans were
left with nothing better to do than fling the pies at the big screen
when it showed Jermain Defoe putting Tottenham one up from a clear
off-side position in the 27th minute. Like many decisions the
officials don't make, they are the only ones who don't see it and as
Gareth Bale went down the left, the linesman had a clear view from
behind of Defoe's run in to tap the Welshman's cross in from a yard or
two out. Even the England striker looked tentatively across to see
if there was to be a flag.
The only flags he saw were the ones with
Wigan crests being lowered as the fans hurled abuse at the lino.
But the cheers from the Spurs fans, who probably made up about a quarter
of the crowd rung out, as the home support was quietened by Tottenham's
Wigan hardly threatened in the first
half, with only Rodellega's rising shot from the edge of the box being
helped over by Gomes after 21 minutes. By then, Spurs had a couple
of free-kicks outside the box and rather than looking for Crouch's head,
they had played them short to Defoe, who was crowded out for one and had
a shot blocked for the other. It is about time the management came
up with some variation in dead ball situations, with Wigan almost
getting caught out.
When David Bentley came inside, he tried
his luck and had two shots at goal forcing saves from Kirkland, although
neither was that difficult. Spurs were closing down well, which is
something they haven't done that well in recent matches, but they were
also loose in their passing, allowing promising moves to break down.
The goal helped settle them a bit, but some niggle crept into the game,
as the pitch started to break down. Playing rugby on it might be a
good stream of income for the Latics, but it left a river of rain and
sleet and hail and snow making the pitch difficult to play on.
Perhaps Wiley was giving players the benefit of the doubt in making
tackles, although that all seemed to go one way, as Bentley was booked
for cutting across Figueroa after the Honduran defender had played the
ball, but similar and worse tackles went unpunished. Defoe was
being bumped around by Caldwell, who is used dishing out that sort of
treatment in the physical battle ground that is the SPL and when he held
JD off once too often, the Spurs man jumped into a tackle on Figueroa.
It was a rash challenge, but he might have been saved form a card by the
fact that he did get the ball, albeit with one leg wrapped around the
defender's ankles. Worthy of a yellow and not the red that the
apoplectic home supporters wanted, Wiley made up for it when he waved
the yellow card at Defoe when he ran out of the wall at a Wigan
It fired up the Wigan support, who could
now boo a pantomime villain, probably because it distracted them from
having to watch their own side's problems laid bare on the mud-heap.
Lacking an idea of how to play to a single man up front, their crosses
and forward passes were over-hit and when they tried to spread play they
found the fans in the first few rows of the stands along the length of
the pitch. Playing a 4-5-1 formation to start with, Wigan suffered
as Marcelo Moreno lacked any sort of pace.
The second half started with the same 22
who kicked off the match and the pitch looked as bad as ever, even
though the groundsmen had spent half-time working vigorously on it.
With Spurs a goal up, it was a nervy time, because a late equaliser here
last season earned Wigan a point, but how that would happen this time,
with the home team fielding a negative set-up, I wasn't sure.
Corluka nearly got onto Crouch's header down at a corner, but Kirkland
beat him to it, while Ledley King made an important interception at the
other end, but jarred his leg as he went down and had to go off, being
replaced by Sebastien Bassong.
Defoe was being roundly booed and didn't
endear himself to the Athletic fans when he went down under challenge
from Caldwell in the box, but he didn't appeal and neither did many of
the Spurs players. But when he was put through by Kranjcar, he
should have finished better instead of leaving the keeper a chance to
block his low shot from the right. Just before, Gomes had his
first threatening shot to save when a few passes around the face of the
box left substitute Victor Moses with a sight of goal from the edge of
the area, but the Brazilian got right behind it.
With Moses' arrival, the team saw the
light and moved to a 4-4-2 system, which provided a bit more going
forward, as Rodellega joined Moreno up front. A series of passes
around the box once more left Charles N'Zogbia with a shooting chance,
but his execution of the effort saw it bend high over Gomes' bar rather
than settling into the top corner of the net. Spurs tried to
counter this attacking change of formation by bringing on Luka Modric
with 20 minutes to go. The little Croatian might have got bogged
down in the muddy middle of the park, but as the Wigan players tired
from chasing shadows, Luka took centre stage.
His neat footwork produced a pass through
to Defoe, who hit his shot too straight and Kirkland dealt with it
competently, while his next dissection of the home defence saw
Pavlyuchenko (now on for Defoe) run back from and offside position, but
Crouch ran through on the pass and tried to shoot past Kirkland from
inside the box, but failed to lift it over the goalie and he saved the
Having been booked for a putting an arm
across N'Zogbia and failing to stop him, Tom Huddlestone caught another
Wigan player late on the foot and Wiley made a big show of talking to
him about it. It needed him to tread carefully, but that was not
always possible in the slippery conditions.
A rare foray into the Spurs last third,
saw the ball played out to McCarthy on the right corner of the Spurs
box, from where he aimed a firm cross into the box, but it turned out to
be more like a shot, as it was too close to Gomes, who spilled the ball
and with substitute Scott Sinclair coming in, he had to try and block
the return back into the box, but was helped out by Bassong.
Immediately, Spurs moved the play to the other end and Modric was at the
hear tof the move, playing in Bentley on the right and the wide-man
repaid the compliment by knocking it in the box to where Modric was to
hit a shot that rebounded off the post and into the grateful arms of
Kirkland, who hadn't moved form the spot where he stood.
It only delayed the inevitable, as Modric
rode two tackles, fed the ball through to Pav on the edge of the box and
he took the ball forward to be level with the penalty spot. In the
same movement, he stroked the ball past the keeper, who was coming out
to meet him, to give Spurs the points with just six minutes left.
You could see how much the Russian enjoyed the goal and how much the
Spurs fans did too !!
It was just left for Spurs to see out the
remaining time, but they kept going forward and kept Wigan pushed back.
With a minute left of added on time, Spurs got a free-kick for another
in a long line of fouls. Huddlestone stood over it and again, it
wasn't pumped into the box, but clipped into the right hand channel,
where Pavlyuchenko got on the end of it and glanced a header at goal.
it was enough to surprise Kirkland, who could only block the effort out
to the right of the goal and Pav was quick enough to react and beat
Figueroa and Melchiot to it, allowing him to dink the ball into the near
post for a third goal. Cue eruption on and off the pitch, as that
really did wrap up the points.
In the end, it was a comfortable win, but
at 1-0 for so long, it could have led to the lead being siped away, but
in truth Wigan rarely looked capable of doing so. Their attack was
thin, mainly because of the tactics employed and if they were trying
some damage limitation after the 9-1 win, it worked. However, it
might well have damaged their chances of pulling clear of the danger
zone and showed their limitations. For Spurs, the way they played
gives some hope of better times ahead, but the old question of
consistency raises it's head and with Everton up next in a week's time,
the dust will not have settled on the mid-week FA Cup replay, so the
battle son two fronts will be tested over the coming seven days.