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Wigan Athletic 3-2 Wolves (Wigan fan's perspective)

Monday 14th May 2012
Wigan ended the season on a real high with a comfortable 3-2 victory over relegated Wolves. Having already secured safety with victory over Blackburn on Monday, the game had little riding on it for both sides. In a game that certainly wasn't as close as the scoreline suggests, you always felt the hosts had another gear to move into if required.

Playing in front of a home sell out, Roberto Martinez made one change with Antolin Alcaraz rested after two years without a break, Adrian Lopez came in for him. There was no room for sentiment for the likes of Chris Kirkland, Steve Gohouri, Momo Diame and Hugo Rodallega all due to leave the club this summer, only the latter two featured, as late substitutes.

The last time these two sides met Wolves won 3-1 at Molineux in November. That game was Wigan's eighth straight loss and if you'd have told any Wigan fan that the final day game against the same opposition would be meaningless with safety already secured they would have laughed in your face. That's exactly how it was, with the visitors being the team that had already dropped through the relegation trap door.

As the home fans celebrate an eighth straight season of Premier League football with a minutes applause when the clock ticked onto 8 minutes, Wolves spoiled the party by taking a shock lead. Matt Jarvis broke clear into the box all too easily. Although his run could have been prevented, his finished couldn't. The former Gillingham man curled a superb effort beyond Al Habsi to cut short the home applause. It was the first goal Wigan had conceded at home in over five hours of football.

It wasn't long before Wigan restored parity. Franco Di Santo's shot from the edge of the box took the slightest of deflections to leave Wolves 'keeper De Vries flat-footed as his effort hit the bottom corner. Just two minutes later Wigan went in front as Emmerson Boyce's powerful header from a Beausejour corner found the back of the net.

Those two goals in quick succession restored the party atmosphere that Jarvis' goal had so rudely interrupted. It also helped the home side play with the confidence and flair that has been such a big part of their game in their recent resurgence.

A second half wonder strike from Emmerson Boyce put Wigan further in front. As Rodallega knocked the ball towards Boyce on the edge the box, the defender adjusted his body and volleyed home a truly outstanding goal into the top corner. Substitute Wolves 'keeper Carl Ikeme had no chance of reaching it. It would have been a good contender for goal of the season, had Shaun Maloney's goal against Manchester United not already earned that prize.

Wigan could and probably should have had a fourth goal. Boyce had the best opportunity to seal an unlikely hat trick when he was played through into the box. When it seemed easier to score he elected to pass to Rodallega, but his pass was cut out by Richard Stearman and cleared to safety. Boyce really should have had a pop at goal.

Hugo Rodallega had good opportunities to get himself one last goal for the club. Wigan's all-time record Premier League goal scorer couldn't quite find the target. He came closest when he beat the 'keeper to a loose ball only to see his toe-poked effort come back off the foot of the post.

Adrian Lopez seemed to be in a battle with Wolves midfielder Karl Henry for poorest performance of the day. He gifted Wolves a second goal by dilly-dallying with the ball for too long. When he was dispossessed and Al Habsi failed to gather, the ball fell perfectly for substitute Steven Fletcher to tap into an empty net from the edge of the box.

In the end the 3-2 scoreline flattered Wolves a little, although for Wigan it rubber-stamped 15th place. With Aston Villa losing at Norwich a win wasn't essential, but the win was a fine end to what's turned out to be a glorious season. The club ended the season top of the Premier League form guide, with a quite unbelievable seven wins from the last nine games. It's only the third time in Premier League history that a team lost eight in a row and still survived. The other two teams to do that? Wigan, and erm...Wigan!

What's more remarkable is the football played in that run of games. There's been no desperate measures or long balls, the club has played its way out of trouble. For a club like Wigan, with players on salaries that are a drop in the ocean compared to most of their rivals, is simply stunning. Having spent the bulk of the season worrying about dropping into the Championship, Wigan ended the season only four points shy of 10th-placed West Brom.

With twenty-two points picked up from the last ten games of the season, Roberto's men picked up more points from the last ten games than they did in the previous twenty-eight! After beating QPR in August, Wigan went seven months without a single home win. They ended the season with four straight home wins! It was also the first time Wigan have won three games in a row under Roberto Martinez.

The form shown in the last quarter of the season has been nothing short of spectacular and if the club can hang on to the basis of the squad (and the manager!) then next season could finally be one to savour. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing a full season from the likes of Shaun Maloney, James McArthur and Franco Di Santo.

Maloney and McArthur have played a big part in the resurgence, although for me Di Santo is easily the most improved player in the squad. His performances in the last few weeks have been exceptional and he was the best player on show on the final day. He and the rest of the Wigan players will almost be gutted to see the season end. I share that view myself.

With crowds also up towards the end of the season the club ended the campaign with an average of 18,633, a fine achievement for a club of our size. If we can add a few hundred more to that figure next season then it really could be one where people start to stand up and take note of "little" Wigan Athletic.

Enjoy the summer!

Wigan Athletic:  Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell (c), Lopez, Figueroa, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour, Moses (Crusat 58), Maloney (Gomez 82), Di Santo (Rodallega 78)

Unused Subs:  Pollitt, Watson, Sammon, Diame.

Goals: Di Santo 12, Boyce 14, 79

Starman: Franco Di Santo

Wolverhampton Wanderers:   De Vries (Ikeme 51), Edwards, Stearman, Henry, Ebanks-Blake (Fletcher 75), Ward, Hunt (Forde 58), Berra, Jarvis, Zubar, Doyle

Unused Subs:  Elokobi, Johnson, Milijas, Jonsson.

Goals: Jarvis 9, Fletcher 86

Attendance: 21,986
Stuart Alker

Total articles: 31

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