Wigan Athletic went into this match the clear favourites against relegation-haunted Blackpool, but a missed penalty after 20 minutes was the turning point. It was a surprise to us all when Martyn Waghorn strode up to take the penalty ahead of Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gomez. Sadly for Latics, Blackpool goalkeeper Matt Gilks guessed right and made a superb save from a firmly hit shot that was going into the corner.
Following the penalty miss, Blackpool came more and more into the game scored two opportunist goals and in the end left Latics on their knees.
Uwe Rosler put forward what looked like his strongest lineup, given the players at his disposal. The same group of players who had outclassed promotion challengers Reading, eight days ago.
Latics made a solid start and it looked like Blackpool were there to play for a draw. Wigan were matching them physically and looking dangerous down their left with Shaun Maloney pulling the strings. The Tangerines left only one player up front, Andy Keogh, and it looked easy for Emmerson Boyce and Leon Barnett in the early stages. Waghorn had a chance from 12 yards but could not deliver.
On the 20 minute mark Maloney went down in the box following a tackle by right back Tony McMahon. It looked like Maloney fell over the ball and McMahon was not happy with the Scot’s fall. Referee Any D’Urso gave a penalty that Waghorn spurned. Soon after Waghorn completely fluffed it in front of goal after a good move led to Roger Espinoza putting in a great cross to his feet.
Latics were to become either ponderous in their build up, allowing the visitors’ defence too much time, or they were launching long balls from defence that Waghorn had no chance of getting, being a lone centre forward against big defenders, without support. They had a wake-up call just before half time when Neal Bishop went close in the six yard box.
At half time Rosler took off the unfortunate Waghorn and put Nick Powell at centre forward. Latics continued to play in the same way, but Blackpool started to throw more men forward . They scored in the 60th minute when Andy Keogh beat Boyce to a cross from the right from Isiah Osborne, his header putting Blackpool ahead.
Latics pressed but Powell put a header wide and Maloney put a free kick over the crossbar.
Roger Espinoza was replaced by Marc-Antoine Fortune after 69 minutes. A minute later Keogh was to rub salt in Latics’ wounds later when he once again evaded Latics’ centre of defence, pulling the ball back from the by-line for the unmarked Stephen Dobbie to fire into the net. Barnett and Beausejour had looked exposed with no midfield cover in sight.
The second goal sank Latics psychologically. James McClean came on for Maloney after 79 minutes, but Wigan’s fight had gone out of them.
It was a sad sight to see so many of the season’s best home crowd of 19,137 leaving well before the end.
Blackpool were well deserved winners in the end and the result might well keep them in the Championship next season.
Results in matches like this can be balanced on a knife edge. If Waghorn had managed to put way the penalty Latics could well have gone on to win by 3 or 4 goals. It was not to be.
Latics had done so well to get to this stage of the season in such a strong position, despite the lack of a regular goalscorer. It hurt them once more today. They could have put Blackpool away in the first half hour if their finishing had been clinical.
Key players continue to do what they can, but are clearly jaded. Even the energetic and demanding Rosler had no way he could pull the strings of a side that looked desperately jaded in the second half.
This result is a set-back, but it would be a mistake to write Latics off. They are still in with a good chance of qualifying for the play-offs and it will do them no harm going in there as out of form underdogs.
All credit to Blackpool for a hard earned victory.
The performance of Jordi Gomez today opened the floodgates for his critics. They would say he back to his previous self – taking too much time on the ball and passing it sideways. However, his fans would say that there was so little movement around him that he had few options.
On paper Latics should have dispatched a mediocre Blackpool team. But the lack of movement following the penalty miss was plain to see. Put simply, Latics looked desperately jaded.
When behind on previous occasions in the last quarter of the game under Rosler they have gone aggressively at the opposition. More often than not, Rosler’s substitutions helped. This time the substitutes gave no uplift.
Why was Waghorn taking the penalty ahead of Maloney and Gomez?
In reality Blackpool got three good crosses into the box and scored from two of them.
A match best forgotten. Let’s move on to the next.
Al Al-Habsi: 6 – had little to do, except pick the ball out of net twice.
James Perch: 6 – solid.
Emmerson Boyce: 6 –looking tired. Not at his best.
Leon Barnett: 6 – good in the air, but exposed for pace again.
Jean Beausejour: 5.5 – faded in the second half.
James McArthur: 5 – way below his customary level. Needs a rest.
Roger Espinoza: 6 – always involved.
Jordi Gomez: 6.5 – it is hard to criticize a player who covered so much ground. He was not his at his best and frustrating at times, but still gave his all for the cause.
Callum McManaman: 5.5 – largely neutralized by Blackpool full back Halliday, probably their best player.
Martyn Waghorn: 5 – out of touch.
Shaun Maloney: 6 – good early on, but struggled before being substituted after 79 minutes.
Nick Powell: – poor.
Marc-Antoine Fortune: – poor.
James McClean: – poor.