Wigan Athletic 3 Mansfield Town 2
Ellington 26, 32, De Vos 65.
Larkin 45+, 54.
Gary Tyldsley at the JJB Stadium
Still living in the wake of the euphoric opening day victory over Plymouth, there was a healthy air of optimism amongst the travelling band of Staggies. It ended up as one of those strange nights when “Major Frustration” pokes his evil finger into the good, honest endeavour of our boys.
The only change to the starting line-up saw Liam Lawrence taking the place of Wayne Corden on the left hand side of the same 3-5-2 formation used last Saturday.
Not one to miss an opportunity, I had a quick word with Bobby Hassell and found that he will be back in training next week but may not be quite ready to face “them from the other side”
There was a positive start for the Stags and they showed little sign of being overawed by a side that has cost millions to assemble. Only a minute was on the clock when the Wigan keeper flapped at a ball across the box and was relieved to see that an Amber shirt could not capitalise. The home side also started positively and it only took a further 60 seconds for them to force a save from Kevin Pilkington.
The scene for the remainder of the game was then set in the next 10 minutes. A dubious free-kick awarded to the home side on the edge of the box was hit over the wall but also over the bar. Shortly after, David Jervis slipped badly on the edge of the box but the increasingly confident Neil Moore was alert and blocked the attempted cross. There appeared to be an incredibly high number of instances where players simply lost their footing on the surface and slipped over.
The whole game was then turned upside down during the next “mad 15 minutes”. Just after the quarter-hour mark, Neil Mackenzie lunged at a Wigan man on the far touchline to pick up a Yellow card. Within two minutes, Andy White joined him in the referees' notebook for what appeared to be dissent. The dismay at that decision turned to real anger just three minutes later when a bit of “handbags” resulted in a free-kick to the home side but also led to a little post-whistle altercation between Wigan's Jason Jarrett and Scott Sellars. With the referee clearly having lost control of the game, he relied on the input of his “assistant” and decided that Jarrett required a Yellow card but swapped this for a red one when he turned to Sellars. The next part of this event saw Stuart Watkiss banished to the stands after the intervention of the fourth official. Just to rub salt in the wounds, when the free-kick was taken it was knocked back across goal for Nathan Ellington to open the scoring for Wigan.
With the Stags struggling to get back into gear and compensate for the loss of Scott Sellars, it appeared to be game, set and match within five minutes. A long ball to the edge of the Stags box was met with a looping header from Ellington – Wigan 2-0 up and cruising.
Approaching half-time the Stags did seem to find a little extra energy and they began to display an attitude which befits the management team. As players, Stuart Watkiss and Neil Richardson were “never say die” men, unmovable in their approach to the game – it is an aspect that has been missing from Stags sides in recent years but appears to live in the current crop.
During the last of the massive six minutes first-half stoppage time, Andy White and Liam Lawrence combined well on the left hand side and Lawrence provided the cross for Colin Larkin to head home.
Half-time: Wigan 2 Stags 1
The home side made the early running after the restart and created what should have been the killer goal only for Ellington to miss what looked like a routine free header.
The spirited efforts of the Stags were rewarded minutes later when Colin Larkin started a positive run towards the box and hit a sweet shot that found its way into the net with the aid of a slight deflection. This was a deserved equaliser, not for any prolonged spells of pressure by the Stags but for that fact that not once did they drop heads or lose their assured approach. For Colin Larkin, this strike also edged him towards the possibility of achieving similar “cult” status to the goal-scoring heroes of recent Stags teams.
For the next passage of this game, it looked as though the desired result had been achieved before lady luck then dealt another “bum hand” to the Stags.
The influential Neil Mackenzie had to be withdrawn with what looked to be a head injury. Just to match his earlier performance, the referee forced Stags to face a corner with Wayne Corden waiting on the touchline. Fortunately, this corner came to nothing but was knocked behind for another flag-kick to Wigan. As Corden then joined the action, the corner was played in and headed home by the Wigan skipper De Vos.
The game then dropped a level for the remaining 25 minutes, one notable moment being a terrific block tackle by David Jervis to stop Ellington completing a hat-trick – although note that in making this tackle, David hurt his hand and was forced to leave the field with Barry Statham whilst Wigan took the resulting corner!!
Stags did have one further chance with Colin Larkin seeing a shot go just wide from the edge of the box.
Despite the result, this performance cements the feeling after the opening day victory that Stags will stay up this season. There is spirit in this side to match the quality that has been displayed so far.
As for our opponents tonight, they look like play-off candidates when they should be promotion certs. The JJB stadium is superb but suffers from a visible problem with less than 6000 inside.
Man of the Match: Colin Larkin
Pilkington 6 : Needs to command the box more but some great saves
Reddington 6 : Steady performance, lacked a challenge for their 2nd goal
Moore 7 : Reads the game well and growing in confidence
Jervis 7 : Another good show
MacKenzie 7 : Super passing, unfortunate to have to go off
Williamson 7 : Slowly getting back to his best
Disley 7 : Bags of energy and some good distribution tonight
Sellars 6 : Showed his class with the dead ball and unlucky to be red-carded
Lawrence 7 : Worked extremely hard and made the first goal
Larkin 8 : Has he only just joined this team? 2 excellent finishes tonight
AWhite 6 : Lots of hard work
Corden (64 – for MacKenzie) 6 : Lots of enthusiasm and worked hard
Christie (77 – for White) 6 : Did not get into the game enough
Subs not used: Bacon , Clarke , JWhite.
Latest | August 2002