A must win game, against a team who had beaten Arsenal at Wembley, looked a daunting prospect for Latics. Yet this time something came together and a team who has mostly this season been dormant, is starting to flex some muscle power. Could this tie be the turning point in what is a crucial run of game, eight to play, and they are all must wins.
We started today’s game with a relatively strong squad. The only really exception was Rodallega not starting due to him having picked up a knock against Manchester City. It looked like we would carry the game on in the same style. Quick attacking football and within a minute we already had a corner ball. One thing that has been consistent this season has been our poor delivery and that again continued today.
So with five minutes gone game at 0-0 and Birmingham now coming into the game, I think we were all right to be a bit nervous. So when a ball was whipped in by Larsson, from a corner, was only half cleared. They result was predictable. Caldwell heading the ball back out, which insistently had four Birmingham players offside, no flag was raised. The ball was hit back in, and Ridgewell who appears to have stayed on side, slipped in and volleyed the ball past Ali.
With that goal, we seemed to dip, and sloppiness resumed its normal course. Not even Cleverly could pick a pass out. With Moses and N’Zogbia not really providing any sort of width, it feel to Boyce to provide the killer cross. Watson flicked the ball between Birmingham’s defence, Boyce charged to the ball and passed it across the goal front. Foster touching the ball, but straight into the direction of Cleverly. That really came out of no where.
Some how though we got ourselves back into the game and on top. With 20 minutes till half time, it looked like we may even get a second. However all our possession and passing never really became more than that.
The second half started much the same, but now Moses and N’Zogbia started to see more of the possession and the tie was turning in our favour. The main game change though, was the introduction of Conor Sammon and Hugo Rodallega, for Victor Moses and Franco Di Santo. This changed our shape and for once Martinez had a Plan B and it worked.
Instantly the two were linking up and finding gaps in the Birmingham defence, but all their efforts were very tame and Foster wasn’t kept too busy. The first major chance was converted by Hugo, a long ball downfield, bounced over the Birmingham defence, where Hugo reacted and chipped Foster. The ball eventually crossed the line.
Now I can not for the life of me see how this goal wasn’t given. The ball was in the air, so the challenge Hugo made on Johnson was fair. But the referee saw a foul. I maybe wrong but it was a 50/50 ball, so when Hugo put is body underneath it before Johnson it was a fair challenge. I did not see Hugo’s arms raised towards Johnson.
But this ‘goal’ rallied the team and the sudden realization that we might actually win this dawned on the players. Both McCarthy and Figueroa saw efforts saved brilliantly by Foster. Sammon also had a shot blocked by Ridgewell who through is body in front of the ball.
With time ticking away it looked to be it for Latics. Five minutes of added time went up and we pushed on again. The ball falling wide to Cleverly who controlled and ran to the byline. He cut back and played the ball to Figueroa who had space. Figueroa took a touch and let fly with his right foot. A swerving shot, which had Foster beaten all ends up, 2-1 Latics. The ground was bouncing.
Great and needed result after how everyone else has done. But our performance was overall again very good. We controlled the game, held possession and some of our passing was first class. It is just that finishing touch that we are missing, but with this team i think we can do it. Conor Sammon looks like a great buy, worth every pound of his £500,000, and he and Hugo look well together.
Next up for us are Tottenham, who themselves will need a win to keep pace at the top. Playing at home, and with the team able to play how they can. Three point hopefully won’t be a problem, it all comes down to the confidence of the players. I believe we can win every game between now and the end of the season, it is just a matter of going out and doing it.
With eight games to go we sit bottom of the table. However come the 22nd of May if we go down. I will be clueless as to how we have.