Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Sunday, March 17, 2024

High pitched frustration - Wigan Athletic vs the Mighty

There is a certain tension in the air. Cynicism is easier than belief. We're on edge a bit. Critch hasn't done anything mental. It's the same team that have scrapped their way a worthy win and a precious point. It's a side that looks, at long last, balanced and increasingly in tune with each other. The big danger in all of this is that after a few decent results we've once again got something to lose. 

Wigan is all hard edged darkened brick juxtaposed with a garish splash of retail hell. You can import global capital's dream of leisure as spending but you can't quite erase the Orwellian past. A grey day. A skyline of half demolition and fitful unfinished regeneration. A nowhere ground. I think the DW feels a bit like it must feel to be trapped inside Google maps. Everything is a bit too neat, the stadium and the shopping centre around it feel like computer designed 3D models dropped onto a landscape that doesn't really suit them.

We need this. C'mon Pool.


I'll be absolutely honest from the start. 

My heart isn't in this write up. 

From the point at which Rhodes goes down, gets up and then goes down again, I've got a sinking feeling. It's one of those games.  I'm struggling to think of much that happened, let alone much that happened that was any good.

I was stood in front of some high pitched 12 year olds who never stopped making random and incredibly angry observations and after a while that seemed to short circuit my brain and the game is now filed in my head as an endless loop of us passing along the back line, looking a bit confused when we got to either wing back and then either belting it long (to little avail) or going back the other way, in which instance Wigan put pressure on forcing either Marv or Grimmy to whallop it long (to no avail) whilst a shrill kid's voice shrieks the eloquent phrase: 'Why are you playing like spazzes you cunts?!' in my ear. 

I can remember the following things: 

1: Kaddy was crap. He isn't crap, he's brilliant, but today was his worst display in tangerine and we, therefore, had little to nothing to fall back on. He got the ball, he lost the ball. His set pieces were little islands of hope that were washed away by the sea of reality. That's a long winded and needlessly indulgent way of saying, he hit his corners too long and his free kicks were wild and off target. He can't be perfect every week. I forgive him unreservedly because to blame him would be the most wild act of petulance imaginable and the boy has given us pleasure beyond measure to date. 

Do not mention Rob Apter. Do not mention Rob Apter. Do not mention Rob Apter. Do not mention Rob Apter. 

Rob Apter. 

Sorry. Not Sorry. 

2: Wigan were wise to us and did the things we don't like. They didn't let us rest on the ball and they were rough and rugged. The ref wasn't especially on it and Wigan soon asserted themselves and stamped their authority with a bit of skulduggery and brawn.

Wigan weren't all that but I think the key differences were that their players seemed to win more individual physical battles and that their midfield were prepared to charge at us when the ball turned over. I like the no 12 for them who seemed to twig early on that we would run backwards if he ran at us and that, therefore was what he did throughout the game.  

3: We were sluggish and predictable and we rarely, if ever summoned up an unpredictable or imaginative pattern of play. We lost the midfield battle and we didn't find much joy wide. We seemed to be sitting deep and when we had possession we didn't move the ball quickly or seem to be in any great hurry to find space. Wigan weren't dissimilar but they broke faster and looked more comfortable on the ball at the back. Their midfield was more dynamic than ours. The one player I thought really mixed it a bit was Matty Virtue and he was only on the pitch for about 8 minutes. 

4. We did make chances. Not many, but some. We missed them. This wasn't a surprise as the whole experience seemed to fizzle inevitably into a tetchy disappointment. The eternal optimist in me had my head in my hands a few times, daring for a moment to belief we were about to transcend the general air of torpid struggle and cursing the fact that reality intervened. The eternal pessimist in me chided the optimist within. 

'We're not scoring today' 
'You never know' 
'You do though don't you' 
'I've lost my train of thought now' 
'Me too' 
(Coulson runs into a Wigan player and falls over) (Kids 'FUCKING SHIT PRICK DICKHEAD FUCK OFF')  
'Told you mate, we're not scoring' 
'Aye... but maybe...'
'Just give up'  

It would be unfair and needlessly hyperbolic to say we created nothing - Byers had a very mixed bag of a game but at least tried to wriggle through and got a few shots in. Lavery had fleeting moments of waspish threat and a couple of efforts, the best of which flashed wide of the near post. The best chance came late, a corner, a header back across and Kyle Joseph with what felt like a golden chance, nodding it tamely over the bar. 

5. This was another in a long series of games where it felt as if we did the same thing over and over and over despite it not working particularly well. We did change shape with a few minutes left and we made a couple of chances and conceded a couple of chances. 

I'm trying my best here, not to turn this blog into a grim polemic, but as I've observed previously, it is games like this that are the most frustrating thing about our current incarnation - we're losing, so we seem to react by 'keeping it tight and hoping to nick a winner' - which to me seems a fundamental misreading of what 'being a goal down' means. - when we shifted shape, yes, we looked more likely to concede a second, but we might also looked a little bit more likely to score a goal. That's the risk/reward calculation you make with an attacking move and we seem very averse to making such calls. 

Again, I've observed this previously (and it's really easy to cite 'desire' and 'heart' and 'bottle' and those radio phone in cliches and I'm very keen not to do so) but I can't avoid saying that we really didn't seem too desperate to settle things up. I kept waiting for the onslaught. I kept waiting for us to click into gear and for the situation to get to the point where we started to throw players forward and for the sheer weight of numbers to overwhelm Wigan and for us to toe poke home a scrappy goal borne of sheer willpower. 

It never came. Instead, we seemed to continue in basically the same patterns we'd started the game with as the kids behind me offered sage advice like 'this is shite' then asked rhetorically 'why are we shite?' and the crowd at large cheered ironically as we once again knocked it to Grimmy. 

6. There's something about the DW stadium. The pitch almost always feels a bit too big and bit too puddingy. The ball seems to move slower here, even through the air. Sometimes this Blackpool team look like they can't put it together. The whole game felt a bit like Ollie Norburn winning the ball, turning looking for a pass, hesitating, taking a touch, not seeing a pass and then turning again and going backwards. Today was Coulson, running at Wigan and then checking inside, looking and only then someone beginning to show for the ball. Today was one of the strikers going to the near post and once in while winning the fight, only for the other to be nowhere in the vicinity. Today was Marvin looking for the midfield and almost visibly sighing before launching it again for the whole thing above to play out again. 

Some days we just don't seem to connect with each other. Some days we just don't make the runs. Some days, it's just not fun. 

This was one of those days. A big, expectant crowd that turned sour. The full time whistle, the air full of rancour. Angry faces scowling their way to the exits. Talk of 'another season in this shit league' 


Some days watching football can feel like a waste of time. This was one of them. If we are doomed to another season in 'this shit league' then to be honest, I can't say we particularly deserve otherwise. I just hope that if we don't go up (and we still can, despite the fact that today we looked nothing like a promotion winning team) we approach the new season with a bit less rigidity and a bit more daring. 

After the game, I went to the pub with some Wigan fans of my long time acquaintance. We didn't really talk about football much. Why would you? It's just some blokes belting it about and a game like that yields few things to celebrate. 

They thought they were lucky and that we weren't as bad as I thought. I thought we were shite and they were being nice. They didn't think we'd go up though. I agreed. If I'm absolutely honest (and this is hard to admit to myself) I'm beginning to hope we don't because we're palpably quite a long way from being good enough and whilst this season hasn't been anything like the car crash of last year, we're nowhere near the quality of the Grayson team of yore or the first Critchley side. We lack either the solidity of the latter or the weight of attacking quality of the former. 

We're approaching 40 games now and I'm still not sure what to describe us as. We're not an all out footballing team like Peterborough. We're not a shithouse team like Stevenage. We're not a defensive wall that we spring from like we were last time. We're not an utter crock of shit like Mad Mick produced. We're just more than a bit nondescript. We're neither fish nor fowl. We're not fast, we're not silky, we're not particularly tough. I hate to say it (I actually do. Really. I don't want to be another voice moaning away like it's a surprise that sometimes football doesn't go your way, I don't want to demand things and strop and tantrum when I don't get them...) but we've looked very 'mid table' overall and today wasn't a glaring anomaly. Yes, we've been excellent at points this season, but the list of 'nothing' performances is just too long to ignore.

When it's our day, we're pretty good. When it isn't, we just don't seem to have it in us to change that. 

I think I need a week off. 


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