by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (April 13th 2013)
In a season of troughs and peaks for Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martínez tonight’s 2-0 victory over Kenny Jacket’s Millwall side is definitely a peak. After 25 minutes Man of the Match Shaun Maloney opened the scoring. Ivorian international Arouna Koné found the Scot in the area and Maloney’s shot from 15 yards out gave Ireland’s David Forde no chance.
”It [his goal] was a great relief I think,” Maloney said. ”It helped us settle down to play the type of football that we tried to. Obviously with winning the match, it’s just a dream scenario. May be first half we did [enjoy it] but for large parts of the second it wasn’t that enjoyable. I think once the second goal went in it sort of lifted that pressure again. The last ten minutes ago it was quite enjoyable. We played pretty well in patches.
Millwall were second best for most of the match apart from a twenty minute spell in the second half. “Ultimately disappointed,” Jacket said. “Some of our defending was excellent. We hung in there. If you’re only 1-0 [down] you’re still in there. We played with good spirit today. Obviously goal-scoring has been a problem for us.”
The Better Side
Jordi Gómez García-Penche had three attempts on goal, but failed to find the goal. Callum McManaman tormented Millwal’s defence especially on the left side of the area in the second half. He settled Wigan’s nerves after 77 minutes when Gomez turned provider with a through-ball into the area. McManaman latched onto it, rounded Forde and passed into an empty net from six yards out.
15 minutes into the match McManaman drew the best from Forde with a 20 yard shot that the Millwall keeper had to parry to his right. The Londoners were second best in the first half, although James Henry and Chris Taylor combined to good effect without requiring Wigan’s keeper Ali al-Habsi to make a save.
After the goal Maloney, Gómez and Koné linked up well to control the tempo of the match and put Jacket’s side on the back-foot, for ten minutes culminating in Koné’s pull back for Gómez to shoot three minutes before the break. Forde saved at the expense of a corner. Five minutes into the second half McManaman came into his own turning his man inside out on the left of the area to turn and shoot from a tight angle, but clearing the bar with Koné perhaps better placed.
Millwall came into their own, but failed to convert their advantage into a goal, while Wigan still posed a threat. “When you do have your spell of 20 minutes you must capitalise on that and score,” Jacket said. “Had we equalised during that period obviously things would have been different and we would have had a better opportunity to win the game. Wigan withstood our pressure and then at the end of it got a very good goal on the counter-attack, which has effectively ended our cup run. We’re delighted to get to an FA Cup semi-final and there’s no shame in getting knocked out by a Premier League side.”
McManaman’s trickery provided another opportunity for Gómez, but the Spaniard could only find the side-netting. Shortly afterwards he had greater success turning provider for McManaman who doubled Wigan’s lead. The South-Londoners never recovered. Koné had another opportunity, but Forde proved equal to it with less than five minutes remaining.
McManaman’s horror tackle on Massadio Haïdara that sidelined Newcastle United’s player a month ago on the Wigan winger’s début outraged many as the FA refused to punish a reckless tackle despite the rules permitting it. McManaman has put the incident behind him and Haïdara’s recovery has progressed well.
Meanwhile, if he is affected by the tackle and its aftermath it didn’t show in his play. McManaman made a huge impact this evening, albeit against a championship defence that is struggling in that league, although the Lions have games in hand.
“I think that’s down to Callum [how good a player he can be],” Maloney said. “I think he did exceptionally well last year with Blackpool when he went on loan. He sort of came back to us and for one reason or another didn’t quite push on and I think after Christmas or so this year something changed in him”
McManaman applied himself and got his chance. ”He’s a lot more dedicated,” Maloney explained. ”He works very hard in training. He comes in early. It’s down to Callum how good he’s going to be and how high a level he wants to play at. In the second half, I think he was our main player, our most dangerous player. I certainly was trying to give him the ball as much as possible. I think he played very well in the second half today and it’s a credit because he’s a young lad. To play in an occasion like this takes a fair bit of doing.”
Maloney had no preference of opponent for the final – Chelsea and Manchester City will play for the right to meet Wigan Athletic tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile, Millwall will be in the news for the wrong reasons again thanks to a mindless minority.
1 For our report on the violence that besmirched Millwall’s reputation see No-one Likes Them, which is published alongside this article.