However whilst Wigan the club may be a top flight team, Wigan the town seems largely indifferent to their status. Their average attendance is creeping up slowly, but Wigan is predominantly a Rugby League town, and the football club hasn't really captured the local imagination. This is a fact plainly demonstrated by the wide array of empty seats that are always visible on Match of the Day for any Wigan home game. Their small fanbase is further exemplified by their pitiful away followings that have lead to such crap jokes as this one:
How many Wigan away fans does it take to change a light bulb?
Both of them.
It is thanks to this small, (no, lets call it what it is and stick with my original choice of descriptive word...pitiful.) It is thanks to this pitiful away following that it's always hard to get too excited about the visit of Wigan to your ground. Banter will be non existent and you almost feel bad for singing classic gems like 'is that all you take away' or 'can you hear the Wigan sing?' to their hardy few. It's almost like bullying someone much smaller and quieter than you. Obviously it's easy to do, but you should really pick on someone your own size.
Their was a slight shock in store for Stoke fans today as Tony had finally opted to start with Fuller and Tuncay together in attack. "BUT THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE," I hear you cry, "Tony said himself you cannot play those two players together!!!" Today however, Tony did the unthinkable, and played two quick and skillful players up front. First three forwards on the pitch against Arsenal, and now this. Whatever next........only one defensive midfielder? No, surely not, that's just crazy talk.
It should be pointed out that both big Mama and James Beattie were nursing injuries so Tone didn't have much choice in his forward line selection. (Though I wager he gave the first entry in his mobile's speed-dial, 'Cresswell', a long hard stare before making his decision. Cresser may now be on loan at Sheffield United, but he will always be in Tony's thoughts.) Nevertheless, this is what most Stoke fans had been waiting for, a chance to see the two 'flair' forwards teaming up to terrorise defences.
In the second half Stoke looked the likeliest to snatch a winner with Whelan, Fuller and Tuncay all going close. It was the Latics however who retook the lead with a freak goal by their full back Figeroua. As I'm sure we have all seen by now, the powerful defender took a quick free kick in his own half and spotting Sorenson off his line, proceeded to twat the ball half the length of the pitch with inch perfect accuracy into the corner of the net. It's hard to complain too much after such a class goal. You have to appreciate the audacity of the effort, and besides, we equalised through a Shawcross header moments later to undo all of Figeroua's good work.
The excitement didn't end there however as thanks to an utterly useless referee's assistant missing their player being offside by about 3 feet when he was fouled, Wigan were awarded a controversial penalty in the last minute. Watching the reply on Match of the Day, it was really hard to see how the assistant missed this. I think assistants get a hard time over offside decisions, as often its a matter of centimeters and requires a split second decision. This time however he has no excuse as the player brought down was sauntering around in a clear offside position for what seemed like a good five minutes before he was brought down. Nevertheless the penalty was given.....
Thomas Sorenson has saved his last two penalties for Stoke, and 4 out of his last 5 including when on international duty. Naturally, as Rodallega stepped up to take the spot kick, I turned to Keeling Senior and wisely predicted "there's no way he'll save three in a row."
5 penalties saved out of 6 speak volumes of Tommy's abilities, and this season especially he has really proved that he was an absolute bargain buy, costing as he did nothing at all. Unlike a certain Mr Carson who wound up at perpetual yo-yo favourites West Brazil Albion after rejecting a multi-million pound move to Stoke. I think Tone made a wise decision there.
Overall, it's hard to be disappointed with a draw when you've so narrowly averted losing in the dieing moments, but in all honesty Stoke should have won the game comfortably. A freak goal and a terrible decision by the officials almost cost us very dearly. We showed a lot of creativity and Tuncay and Fuller proved they could play together which is a major positive. It was a game we should have won, but conversely one which we have to count ourselves lucky we didn't lose.