It was by no means the worst display of the season, going down 1-0 to a team with the best home record in the division. In fact in the second half Latics put Boro under some pressure. But sadly once again it seemed like toothless Wigan would not score if they played all day.
Two moments stick in my mind from the game.
Half way through the first half. With Latics already a goal down they get a throw in ten yards into the opposition half. Gaetan Bong steps up to take it. He looks around, keeps holding on to the ball. None of his teammates are looking to receive it. They are static and look disinterested. In the end he puts the ball down the line. End result – Middlesbrough win back possession.
The final quarter of the match. Latics are succeeding in putting some pressure on the home defence. Kim Bo Kyung put a lovely lofted pass through for James McClean in the box. A goal on the volley looks on the cards. Sadly the Irishman makes a complete hash of the opportunity, sadly lacking the technique and poise of a true striker.
Despite scoring a spectacular last-minute equalizer against Bolton, Martyn Waghorn was left out of the starting lineup. Mackay started with Leon Clarke and James McClean up front and Josh Murphy and Jermaine Pennant playing wide. They were to pose practically no goal threat in the first half.
Mackay took off the naïve and inexperienced Murphy – toothless up front and poor in helping out his defence- and brought on the goal-shy Marc-Antoine Fortune. Once more he livened up Latics’ play. A neutral observer, who did not know MAF’s previous record, might have wondered why he had not played from the start. But with just one league goal all season would you play him? MAF did actually produce one magic moment – a fine effort when fine control helped him elude the Boro defence, putting in a good angled shot pushed away by the keeper. He showed that same kind of control later in the proceedings, but his effort from it was woeful.
After the game Mackay once more shot himself in the foot, by reiterating his concern about Wigan’s lack of firepower. Did he really expect his initial forward lineup to deliver the goods? Has he not learned from past experience?
The majority of Wigan Athletic‘s fans could tell him that McClean does not have the skills or aptitude needed to be a central striker. The Irishman looked so much better running down on the left flank after MAF came on. Decent left winger he is, striker he is not.
Neither has Mackay learned that the journeyman centre forward Clarke is not the answer to Latics’ striking needs. He was poor once again, being replaced by Waghorn after 61 minutes.
Pennant’s best years as a footballer lie in the distant past. His pace has gone and other than two spectacular free kicks at Rotherham his delivery from set pieces has been disappointing to say the least. It has certainly not reflected the levels one would expect from a player with a distinguished career record as a wide player. Once again he was taken off two thirds of the way through the match. He looked distraught at Mackay’s decision. Sadly his manager was probably right – the winger had achieved little in his time on the pitch. In the event Pennant was replaced by William Kvist, a quality player in a squad short on such matters. Why the Dane was not in the starting lineup only Mackay will know.
The unbending Mackay simply refuses to learn from his mistakes. With just six games left he is running out of time.
In the meantime relegation beckons for a team with a toothless attack.