Under Roberto Martínez, Wigan Athletic have accrued a reputation for late season sprints that ensure Premier League survival. This year, however, you have to wonder if their luck has run out, with a late own goal costing them full points today against Tottenham.
The Latics got off to a bad start, with goalkeeper Joel’s attempted clearance in the ninth minute careening off Gareth Bale for the game’s opening goal. But they responded. Two minutes later, Emmerson Boyce’s header had them even, and shortly after halftime, Callum McManaman’s shot from well beyond the edge of the box gave Wigan a 2-1 lead.
But just before full time, Boyce gave his goal back. Amid a late push from Spurs, a ball sent across the six by Aaron Lennon went past Bale, off Boyce’s shins, and into the Wigan net, costing the Latics two points.
Had they held on, Wigan would have been out of the drop. They’d have equaled Aston Villa’s 34 points with a better goal difference (what would have been -22 versus -27). Instead, they stay 18th, albeit two points back instead of three.
Hosting Sunderland on Monday, Villa have a chance to gain ground on Wigan, though the Latics will have their match-in-hand back by the time the round’s over. However, if Villa’s suddenly five up instead of three, Wigan not only need full points in their makeup game, they also likely need to beat Villa on the season’s last day to win survival.
That May 19 match in Wigan’s shaping up to be one of the more dramatic in Premier League history, but had the Latic’s form been rewarded in recent weeks, they may have been able to avoid this fate. They played poorly last weekend at West Ham, but in the previous round they outplayed Manchester City at Eastlands only to leave Manchester with a 1-0 loss. Today they played the key part in both Spurs goals, costing them two crucial points.
It’s a woulda-coulda game that every 18th place team can play. Wigan had 34 rounds to avoid this situation, one in which they find themselves every year. Yet here we are, again, with the Latics pushing their luck once more. At some point, they’re going to hit a wammie.
Wigan is in the middle of their typical push, but the breaks aren’t going their way. As a result, that push isn’t being reflected in the table, forcing us to ask whether if it can be considered a push at all.
Maybe this is the year the Latics’ unlikely run finally ends.