I know its nearing Christmas, but I didn't expect to see a pantomime in this weekends game. It really did have it all, vilan turn hero, a few gaffes and the audience interaction, it made for a great game for the neutral. Yet neither Reading nor Wigan fans enjoyed a 90 minutes of spiraling up and downs.
With a squad half limping, we managed to field a very weak squad for the game. James McArthur and Franco Di Santo occupied the bench, meaning David Jones and Jordi Gomez filled their respective places. This was the first league start for both players this season, and you could tell. Neither player was up to the speed with the game, yet Reading were unable to punish us early on.
They were even unable to trouble our make shift defense. Ivan Ramis coming central to replace the injured Gary Caldwell, with Emmerson Boyce slotting into right center back, with Ronnie Stamm taking the right wing back position. As a unit, our back 3/5 worked well. Obviously we had been focusing on training to cut out the silly mistakes and tighten our leaky defense.
That proved to be the same method for both sides, as they looked to probe the opposition for holes. Wigan looking to use home advantage were purring with passing swagger, yet we still lacked that cutting edge. Shaun Maloney was poor, but that reason would come to light later. The one man who was on fire for Wigan, was winger Jean Beasuejour who was finding acres of space in front of him.
That right back position would be a bit of a problem for Reading as the game progressed. Chris Gunter not able to keep up with the space and skill of Beasejour on several occasions. Proven fully with the best chance for Wigan of the first half. Ramis switching defense into attack with a beautiful cross field ball, which saw Beasejour skip past Reading's right back into free space. The Chilean was able to take his time and pick out a free Arouna Kone, the striker was unable to turn his header on goal.
Yet it would be Reading who would take the lead. They had yet to really test Ali Al Habsi, a few free-kicks had caused the goalkeeper some trouble, one from Nicky Shorey nearly creeping under his body, yet nothing to be alarmed about. However a silly foul by James McCarthy gave, Shorey the chance to drop the ball into the Wigan box, then came Steve Morrison who ran un-opposed from out of the 6 yard box to head home the ball, no stopping that one!
Wigan had to felt hard done by yet again. Our marking had let us down after some great build up play, and some missed opportunities. Yet players and fans rallied, we felt there was a win in us, we felt that we could do it.
Jordi Gomez would have the best chance to equalize in the first half. The midfielder receiving a ball of Beausejour, dummy-ed is past Gorkass, leaving it just the Spaniard and the goalkeeper (Federici). Yet Jordi fired high over the bar and with that Wigans chance to draw level this half.
At half time, Wigan made a change. Shaun Maloney was brought off, a groin injury that could rule him out for some time. In his place Franco Di Santo was brought on to do some damage to the Reading defense, and he nearly scored with his first touch of the game.
Gomez feeding Di Santo wide on the left hand side of the box, the Argentinian's curving shot was heading for the corner of the goal. But Federici dived well to tip it round the post, that was a sign of things to come, with Gomez pulling the strings Wigan start to come to life going forward.
Just before the 60 minute mark, Wigan pulled level. Di Santo strike was too hot for the Reading keeper and he spilled it straight into the path of Gomez who slammed the ball home to make it 1-1. Ronnie Stamm could have made it 2-1 a minute later, coming in off the right wing, the wing-back had a volleyed well saved again by the keeper.
Wigan though weren't having all of the ball. Reading could have and should have had a penalty, Tabb went through on goal, and out went Maynor Figueroa's foot. The defender clearly brought it down on the attacker. Thankfully for Wigan, Howard Webb didn't see it that way.
So counting our blessings. we pushed for the second goal to take the lead, and it wasn't far off. Agains Jordi Gomez would score, and again the build up play would come from the Wigan left hand side. Beausejour crossing for Gomez, the Spaniard dived and headed the ball home. It was like watching a new player the way Jordi was controlling the game and scoring.
We pushed hard for a third with Kone and Di Santo playing ahead of everyone else to hold the ball up and attack between them. Their link up play has been fantastic all season, and it continued in the second half. Kone was set free by Di Santo down the right hand side. But a good block by Gorkass saw the ball go out for a corner.
We were attacking well and defending hard, we didn't want to lose this lead. Yet we allowed Reading too much time on the edge of the box, as player through their bodies to block shots, one went spiraling over all of them towards goal. Just to prove everyone is human, Ali Al Habsi made his first in Wigan colours. The ball looping high and landing flat on the keepers gloves, hitting the bar and bouncing of Ali's head before rolling into the goal.
The players looked astonished, but not down heartened, they knew we could still win this.
With two of the three added minutes gone, Gomez would score again to seal the Wigan win. Arouna Kone this time would turn provider, firing the ball low and hard across the box, before the Spaniard was able to side foot the ball into the top of the net and win the game.
One player has never split opinion as much as Jordi Gomez, and after his performances this weekend, he will do it against. A complete hat-rick for him, scoring with both feet and his head while picking up three important points for Latics.