Wigan Athletic’s second string put them into the 5th round of the FA Cup for only the second time since the club was formed in 1932. A professional performance saw them grind out a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a Jordi Gomez penalty after Callum McManaman had been clumsily scythed down in the box.
The crowd of 5,849 packed Macclesfield’s small Moss Rose ground to the rafters, reminiscent of a bygone era when the clubs were adversaries in the Cheshire League. How times have changed since those epic tussles between those two well-matched clubs in the 1960s. Curiously the football played by the non-league side yesterday more than matched that of Premier League opponents, ranked 82 places above them. Wigan had to hang in there with resolute defending as the Silkmen launched their second half assault.
The second string have been fascinating to watch in cup matches this season. On previous occasions they have been reinforced with a smattering of first choice players, but only Maynor Figueroa was in the starting lineup this time around. The pragmatic approach of the second string has contrasted sharply with that of the Premier League XI. In this match there was an absence of the flowing football that characterises the senior team. Although it made for a drab spectacle Wigan looked defensively strong and resolutely defended their lead for 83 minutes after the penalty had put them in front.
This time they did not have Mauro Boselli to score goals for them, the Argentinian seemingly going on another loan move to Italy. He was replaced by Nouha Dicko who almost scored in the second half, after being put through by an incisive pass by Gomez, the goalkeeper making a good save.
A word of mention for Maynor Figueroa. The admirable Honduran has not had a rest from football for some 18 months. He played with his national team in the Olympics over the summer and has started in all but one of Wigan’s Premier League games this season. It was no surprise that he was the senior professional who stepped forward to lend a hand in this match. Captain for the night, he looked a class above anyone else on the pitch.
A win is a win, albeit against non-league opponents. This match was a potential banana skin, but the players worked hard to make sure the unthinkable did not happen.
Roberto Martinez views cup matches as an opportunity for players to stake a claim in the senior squad. Once again Callum McManaman looked the part. Although he rarely plays more than a few minutes as a substitute in the Premier League he has recently signed a new three year contract. One wonders when Martinez will jump in at the deep end and start the young forward in a league match. Roman Golobart teamed up well with Maynor Figueroa in the centre of defence and looks a powerful presence. If Martinez does not get an experienced central defender in what remains of the transfer window then Golobart will push for a first team spot, together with Adrian Lopez who made a welcome return from injury.
Fraser Fyvie is gradually making his mark, after being given a settling in period. The 19 year old is not without experience, having played 58 games in the SPL for Aberdeen prior to joining Wigan in summer. It was a pity an injury caused him to go off after 53 minutes. Roger Espinoza made a promising Premier League debut against Sunderland last weekend, but was unable to really stamp his mark on this match. It was good to take a first look at the big Spanish goalkeeper, Joel Robles, on-loan from Atletico Madrid.
More injuries for Wigan with Fraser Fyvie and Nouha Dicko going off in the second half.
Joel Robles: 6 – looked comfortable, though Macc’s poor finishing rarely tested him.
Ronnie Stam: 6 – clearly worked hard on the defensive side of his game, following recent criticism.
Roman Golobart: 7 – teamed up well with Figueroa in the centre of defence.
Maynor Figueroa: 8 – a captain’s display.
Jordan Mustoe: 5 – a rare start for the young defender. Was kept busy by attackers on his side of the pitch, but hung in there.
Fraser Fyvie: 6 – starting to look like the player who had so much hype in Scotland. Clearly one for the future.
Roger Espinoza: 5 – disappointing after his exciting first team debut last week.
Jordi Gomez: 6 – put through the pass that led to the early penalty that he converted. Nicely set up Dicko at the beginning of the second half.
Nouha Dicko: 6 – looked lively. A pity he had to go off injured when he was establishing himself in the game.
Angelo Henriquez: 6 – showed some nice touches, but must have learned how hard it can be being the lone centre forward in the Martinez system.
Callum McManaman: 7 – looked dangerous in the first half.
David Jones – a capable replacement for Fyvie after 53 minutes.
Adrian Lopez – made a welcome from injury, coming on for Dicko after 66 minutes.