Wigan and QPR played out a dull goalless draw at the DW Stadium with both teams missing out on the 3 points as they try and play catch up with the top two. This game was the only fixture in the Championship midweek, having been put back 28 days due to Wigan’s debut European venture.
The FA Cup holders gave a debut to Lee Nicholls in goal, and if he plays until he’s 40-years-old he’ll never play another game with less to do than he did on Wednesday night, such was the paucity of efforts on target.
QPR were forced into one change due to Joey Barton’s five yellow cards this season for having the surname ‘Barton’. But Harry Redknapp also dropped Barton’s newest best mate Karl Henry to the bench and they were replaced with Ale Faurlin and Jermaine Jenas, with the rest of the side as you were against Burnley.
We started off very brightly with Jenas, O’Neil, Kranjcar and Faurlin playing plenty of passes around midfield. Faurlin in particular was showing some lovely touches and also getting stuck in at every opportunity. One such challenge on about 8 minutes had a fellow fan commenting: ‘if that was Barton that would’ve been a yellow card’. You couldn’t disagree about that particular incident or the referee and two assistants’ performances for the whole 90 minutes.
Early on in the game Hoilett went on a run and approaching the bye-line, was being shepherded by Ryan Shotton. First, Wigan’s No.4 gave Hoilett a huge push in the back, but nothing was given. Then came a second huge shove and Hoilett was now appealing to the linesman who was no more than 5 yards away now. Still nothing was given so Shotton, showing his frustration of not being able to get near the ball, wildly scythed Hoilett down almost underneath the corner flag.
The referee rightly awarded the foul to QPR, but he didn’t even speak to Shotton or his linesman who was nearest to the incident. During all this time, the linesman hadn’t even indicated that it was a foul. It wasn’t even the worst decision of the evening though, more of which later.
As I said earlier, their keeper had a relatively easy night of it, but much of that was to do with poor decision making in the final third of the pitch. Many a time we would win the ball, go forward and with Wigan’s defence back-pedalling we would simply give them the ball back.
Our first shot in anger was following a cross from Simpson that was headed clear to Kranjcar, who controlled it on his chest, but then blazed it wildly over left-footed to derisory cat calls at the home end. A mere half chance at most, but our best clear cut chance after about 30 minutes saw a combination of poor decision making and poor finishing which summed our evening up.
Essou-Ekotto was found with a peach of a pass as he galloped down the left-wing. He bore down on goal and it seemed like he was going to shoot, but dithered long enough for a defender to get across. He went past the defender easy enough, but then made another poor decision and dithered again. He sidestepped the second defender and laid it on a plate for Gary O’Neil to shoot from about 12 yards out. The ball was heading about a yard wide when it hit Charlie Austin.
The linesman now decided he knew why he was being paid and raised his flag to indicate that Austin was offside. It typified some of our approach play so far this season whereby we seem to want to pass the ball to death before having a shot. Assou-Ekotto had three chances to shoot, but eventually decided to pass. Austin was screaming blue murder at the left-back and who could blame him.
Shortly after, Gary O’Neil, out on the left, cut inside two defenders and got a shot off. It was the first and only time a shot stung Lee Nicholls’s gloves as he comfortably dived down to his right just inside the post.
By reading this, please don’t believe it was all one-way traffic because it wasn’t. Twice in the first-half Robert Green was called into action. The first was when an in-swinging cross just eluded both Grant Holt and Richard Dunne and the keeper was forced into punching clear. On the second occasion Nick Powell cut inside Simpson on the corner of the box and got his low shot on target, but Green got down well to make a decent save.
In the last ten minutes or so of the first-half, our midfield seemed to disappear, in particular Niko Kranjcar and Jenas. Kranjcar didn’t look well in fact, and at one point the game was stopped for two minutes while he received treatment and both sides decided to have an early half-time drink it seemed. The referee decided to only add on one minute at the end of the half and also to add not being able to tell the time to his long list of crimes.
Kranjcar was eventually taken off to be replaced by Matt Phillips two minutes before the break. Just before this we fashioned another great opportunity out of nothing. Faurlin did well down by the corner flag as he battled with their left-back. He got his cross into the danger area where Austin was lurking. He shrugged off Shotton, got in front of the defender, but put his side-footed volley just wide of the post.
A scrappy end to a scrappy half, but it could’ve been oh so different. Many a time in the first-half our midfield or defence would win the ball, progress into the last third of the pitch, but the aforementioned bad decision making would rear its ugly head or Junior Hoilett would decide to run down a cul-de-sac. I counted eight occasions alone in the first-half where Hoilett gave the ball away in promising positions. Half-time: 0-0.
Owen Coyle replaced Grant Holt at half-time with Fortune, but it didn’t signify any change in fortune for the hosts. They did come closest to scoring though when an up-and-under cross to the far post by Jordi Gomez was met by Chris McCann who headed against the upright with Simpson and Green just spectators. The ball ran loose to McManaman who blazed wildly over which also summed the hosts up.
Shortly before the incident, the home fans started to boo their own team as pass after pass went astray or on one occasion during a counter attack, they decided to turn around and go back towards their own half. They’d actually started the second-half the better side, forcing three corners in quick succession following crucial interventions by Hill and Dunne as Wigan bombarded our area with up-and-under balls that Eddie Waring would have eulogised about.
But after they hit the post the game went back to being a very scrappy affair and very stop-start. As mentioned at the beginning of this report, the officiating didn’t exactly help in creating a spectacle though either.
Just after the hour, Emerson Boyce went flying through the back of Ale Faurlin with what can only be described as a crude challenge. The referee didn’t even talk to Boyce, more of that later. Then Hill clattered McCann and left him in a heap. The referee waved play on which infuriated the Wigan bench, some ten yards away, and the rest of the stadium.
Back to the football, in the second-half we had a total of four corners and once again wasted them all with only a header by Dunne which went wide. Not even worth mentioning and again poor decision making I believe.
Andy Johnson was eventually brought on with 16 minutes remaining to replace Hoilett who had contributed nothing in the second-half whatsoever, yet poor decision making by the management meant we wasted nigh on half an hour before making that substitution. AJ was immediately in the thick of things, making runs, pulling their defence out of position enabling to exploit those gaps at the back, except that we couldn’t put that final ball into the gaps created.
Phillips did put a lovely ball behind the back-four where AJ had run, but with his back to goal and at an angle, he put the ball wide with the outside of his boot with Austin waiting near the six-yard box.
Then shortly after, another similar ball behind the back-four saw AJ bearing down on the ball by the corner of the box, and going away from goal, he got to the ball and the keeper from nowhere just blatantly pushed the QPR forward out of the way for the most deliberate foul you will see all season!
The referee didn’t even indicate a free kick, but obviously saw the incident as he indicated by waving his hands and gesturing that it was an accidental collusion, about as accidental as JFK’s assassination.¬† I’m not saying it was a red card as AJ was going towards the corner flag, but it was a deliberate foul.
Not to be outdone, the ref then decided to upset all the home fans by giving some really bizarre decisions in favour of us, maybe to even it out, who knows? First, Wigan hit us on a quick counter attack and their forward was clattered from behind and left in agony on the floor. Not only did he not give the foul, but he waved play on and then we hit them on the break!
He repeated this trick again just near the end as we went upfield when Boyce deliberately fouled Charlie Austin as he ran with the ball. Boyce then remonstrated with the official and was outraged that he hadn’t stopped the game due to the injury. So here was another deliberate foul which was due a yellow card, but again the referee did nothing.
The game eventually fizzled out with neither team being able to claim that they deserved to win. But I was absolutely astonished to see a home side wasting time at every goal kick from the 5th minute onwards. No wonder the home fans were booing them. Full-time: 0-0.
It was a welcome return of the clean sheet, but Wigan were there for the taking. They will probably say the same though. They have scored twice in every league game at home this season, so well done the back-five.
Team: Green 7, Simpson 7, Hill 8, Dunne 7, Assou-Ekotto 7, Jenas 6, O’Neil 6, Kranjcar 5 (Phillips 6), Hoilett 5 (Johnson 7), Faurlin 8, Austin 7.
MOM: Ale Faurlin – The only midfielder who really got stuck in and won most tackles. His passing was a treat as well. The rest could look and learn.
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Traore, Onyewu, Henry, Chevanton.
Attendance: 13,143 (including 737 R’s fans)