Most of us are feeling low after Saturday’s defeat but things could look much brighter at 8 o’clock this evening. If we win today, that’ll put us just two points behind Peterborough with eighteen still to play for. I’m definitely wary of Blackpool, though. Wigan will be battling as they’re in the drop-zone but their recent form hasn’t been great with three defeats and a draw in their last five matches. It seems likely that Wright will return to bolster our back-line and we can’t afford another defensive display like the one on Saturday. We may very well see Hume starting and maybe McLaughlin too. I’d like to see how Stewart and O’Brien would get on together upfront as Wyke has found it tough since he gained a goalscoring reputation. Our crosses were unusually poor against Charlton with many of them going straight to their goalkeeper and let’s hope that won’t happen again today. I won’t be watching the match with my Sunderland bubble as I’m heading back to London for a while today and I’m not sure how much of the game I’ll actually be able to see/hear but I’ll be doing my best to keep in touch with it. Match prediction 2-0 to us.
I got the team-news around 5.30 and there were several changes with Hume, Diamond, McLaughlin and Jones all starting while Wright was on the bench. Winchester wasn’t in the squad and neither was Maguire, again.
I tuned into SAFSEE for the first time in yonks and was pleased to hear that we were playing in red and white. McLaughlin must have been injured in the warm-up as when the teams emerged, Wright was on in his place and O’Nien moved over to right back. Winchester was brought on to the bench. In our first attack McGeady’s cross went straight to Jones in goal, which made my heart sink. Wigan won the first corner and we got our first in the eighth minute. Wright headed it goalwards and we won another corner. We soon started to get much the better of it and were piling on the corners. We had a penalty shout after a quarter of an hour but referee Ward wasn’t interested and then a McGeady free-kick was tipped round the post from our best effort yet. I could feel a goal coming but ten minutes later it hadn’t arrived and we all know the adage about scoring when you’re on top. They must have heard me because in the thirty-second minute a great ball from McGeady was put in the net by Wyke’s right foot from five yards out – it sounded like the Wigan defence were being a lot more generous than those of recent opponents. Not long afterwards a McGeady free-kick caressed the roof of the net and I could feel another goal coming. Unfortunately a goal did come three minutes before the break but it went to Wigan when Keane shot home after we’d allowed Dodoo a free header from a corner. A draw was no good to us and we’d have to get another goal asap. Having had much the better of the first half hour or more we were allowing Wigan to get the advantage. Anyway, it remained a disappointing 1-1 at the break.
Almost as soon as we started O’Nien was booked and was quickly followed by Lang and then Scowen so it was 2-2 on yellow-cards. We were taking a while to settle but we won two corners about ten minutes in and things seemed brighter. A sub or five was surely going to happen before too long. Things suddenly got a lot worse when Wigan made it 2-1 and again it came from a corner which Dodoo knocked on for Lang to hit home from close range. LJ needed to get us going fast and he soon brought on Leadbitter, Gooch, Stewart and McFadazean for Hume, Diamond, Jones and Power in the sixty-fourth minute. There was still plenty of time to get two goals but could our suddenly dodgy defence keep Wigan out? Dodoo went down injured but he was able to continue. Time was zipping away all too fast and Wigan sounded more likely to score than us so my mood was grim as we approached the final fifteen minutes. We won our eleventh corner when Tilt cleared a Stewart effort but we couldn’t make it count. Even a draw was starting to feel pleasing but we’d lost our way and were making no telling attacks as full-time hurried towards us.. There were five minutes of added time and it ended 1-2.
It goes without saying that this was a major disappointment and after a decent first period we did next to nothing in the second. Automatic promotion seems like a dream now so much as we dread the idea, it looks like we’ll have to settle for the play-offs.