The Turning Point?
That`s one worrying problem at least temporarily relieved, leaving another one to be permanently kicked into touch on Tuesday ... I hope! But, didn`t the lads make me sweat.
I have become a virtual prisoner in my own home for a fortnight, trying to shake off an infection and avoid picking up another one. Having steeled myself for the operation, I don`t want it postponed. Hence, I had nothing to do except brood on the Wigan game and the knife two days later.
I don`t know which was causing me more anxiety, even though your good wishes have helped to cheer me up. On Friday I received a card from a friend with a picture of pre-development Molineux, taken from Waterloo Road and showing that part of the ground where I sit. I wish I had been there today.
Some good news, though. My older daughter rescheduled her visit so she could stay over until after the operation rather than leaving at 2 pm today! That meant that I could watch the match without a conflict of loyalties. Even so, I was feeling pretty tense by lunchtime, what with the unspoken elephant in the room regarding the reason for her visit and everything.
At least it made me realise why I have a tight chest: it`s not the infection but the prospect of the operation ... and the feeling of foreboding about Sunday, of course. At least, the results on Saturday afternoon went our way with Blackburn, Everton, Norwich and WBA all losing. It was now up to us to take advantage of the situation and get a result. AND WE DID!!!
As I moved the settee closer to the TV at 1.45 pm, put my notepad and biro on the coffee table and shakily drank my cup of tea, I could feel my heart thumping. And, there was no chance of a relaxing pint of beer.
Both teams were extremely nervous and lacking in confidence but it showed more in our play than in Wigan`s. Well, they played attractive football until they glimpsed a sight of the goal and then they froze. Rodallega missed two sitters, the second a candidate for the miss of the season. How different would the match have been, had he scored? Even so, one could make the same point about Hunt`s dismissed penalty. That`ll teach him not to go down as if poleaxed!
Immediately after Rodallega`s dreadful prod round the post on 30 minutes, we unaccustomedly raced down the other end. Guedioura flicked on a long ball from WH to Doyle, who chipped it over the head of a defender and threaded it through three defenders to JOH to score. Finally, the boot up the field paid off!
I wrote in my notes at that point that this was the goal we needed to turn our fortunes round ... but it wasn`t going to be that easy though, especially as the players persisted in dithering on the ball, giving it away and failing to stop the runs of the opposition. This will be one game that Ward will want to forget (from a personal point of view, that is, and apart from the goal, of course). Moses ran him ragged and looked dangerous every time he received the ball.
In midfield, JOH is getting back to his best: playing behind the lone striker suits him. Doyle looked sharper too, holding up the ball well and passing the ball intelligently. He might not be scoring but his assists are mounting up. Guedioura, on the other hand, was poor. Apart from his header, he did nothing right. MM wisely substituted him for Jarvis at half-time. I am also pleased to see Henry have a good game. He was solid in defence and his run into the penalty box set up the second goal. Shame about the sloppy passing at times.
However, before the break, Wigan were back on level terms. Gohouri, the RB, beat Ward and clashed with Hunt, tracking back. OK, so it was a penalty but Hunty`s was too. Couldn`t the ref have cancelled them out? My heart sank, then lifted again, then hit the floor. Having got down well to Watson`s poorly hit spot-kick, WH was powerless to keep out the follow-up shot.
So, we went into the half-time break all square, a fair reflection of the play but one which made me wonder how the lads` confidence would be affected. Thankfully, Jarvis replaced Guedioura at half time and immediately made an impact, firstly as a defender ( within three minutes of the restart he had tackled Moses twice) and then as a winger.
After several minutes in which we played poorly, being caught in possession, giving the ball away and dithering, we finally made the breakthrough. Having driven into the box, Henry cut the ball back expertly to Hunt to inaugurate a bout of ping-pong between WW players and the WA goalie. Finally, Edwards hit the ball home. Edwards is another player who is improving and deserves to keep his place in the team.
Ward`s goal on 65 minutes sealed our victory. After a nice back-heel from Ward to Jarvis, the winger rounded his man and cut the ball back from the by-line to Stearman. His shot rebounded to JOH, whose shot was parried by the goalie to Ward and into the net.
Even at 3-1 I did not feel completely sure of victory. Wigan did not give up and continued to threaten on the break. Our defence creaked at times too. While Berra and Johnson have improved over the last couple of games, they are still error-prone. If Berra made a crucial tackle in the 16th. minute, he also reverted to wrestling his opponent to the ground. What are the odds that this is going to cost us a goal or two this season. Stearman and Ward were easily turned as well. Stearman was also responsible for the mistake in the 30th. minute, which Rodallega should have punished us for. Di Santo muscled him off the ball as he was bringing it out of defence and then crossed the ball over RJ`s head to Rodallega ...
Counting down the last ten minutes, I was looking for the appearance of Don Everall`s bus so I was somewhat surprised to see Milijas come on in the 82nd. minute in place of JOH. I could understand why JOH was tired but I had expected to see Elokobi or someone like that appear (is there anyone like George out there?) In the event, Ned did not have much of a chance to influence the course of the game.
To sum up, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Just as we can be heartened by a battling, if losing, performance against MC, we should not get too excited about beating the bottom team in the PL at home. However, there are positives to be taken from this game and we did secure a win at last. It would be churlish not to congratulate the team on their magnificent win today, achieved in the face of a great deal of criticism from many fans, including me. As long as we learn the lessons, we can continue to make progress. Indeed, we might have found a formation that suits us.
Although I couldn`t attend, the atmosphere in the crowd seemed tense and this surely only serves to undermine the team. Whatever we might feel about recent performances, we have to give the lads our full support on the pitch, especially now. Where was the intimidating Molineux roar today? When we are struggling, that is the time to encourage the team. I hope this victory will be the turning point of the season but we have to play our part. I bet the fans streamed out of the ground a lot happier than when they went in.
Now, bring on the knife!