The best moment today came after the game. I was cycling away from the ground when I spied a young lad, blonde hair, maybe 9 or so, proudly presenting the world with a large white shirt: DIARRA 19 it said on it. “Is that from today?” I asked him. “Yep,” he beamed back, like he’d just won the lottery. “You look after it,” I smiled, and whizzed off. Wow, I thought, how happy was he? Tremendous.
“I’M SO BORED!” shouted someone in the Riverside midway through the second half, and I can’t imagine he was alone. The teams played with no urgency and while the collective keep-ball aesthetic was pleasant, at some point someone has to stick their neck out and inject some something. Danny Murphy could be heard telling his teammates to “lift it” but they never really did this. Fulham looked a better team but lacked spark; Wigan looked a decent team but lacked spark; the whole thing felt like a non-event.
Wigan thought that’s what they’d get away with, too, a tidy point from a tough away ground, but found their hopes dashed late on when Philippe Senderos climbed high to nut John-Arne Riise’s cross firmly into the net. 2-1, late drama, Wigan shattered. It was hard to feel sympathy, for one thing because Fulham had made most of the chances, for another because Wigan had been fully complicit in the 87 minutes of daydreaming that had preceded the goal. There were points here to be taken but they were too cautious and paid the penalty.
So yes, incidents. Nothing much in the first half. In the second Wigan scored with Boyce’s pleasing thump, as hefty thwack across Mark Schwarzer which woke everyone up (briefly), an effect doubled by Pavel Pogrebnyak’s swift equaliser (another hearty swing of the boot) moments later (Wigan should be cross about that one, too). Pogrebnyak was then involved in both the other good moments, hitting the bar from a yard out following good work by Riise on the left, then stabbing against the post after Al Habsi had beaten someone else’s shot back into the danger area. He had a quiet game but for all that seems to have quite the eye for goal, which is encouraging.
Otherwise I don’t know what else to say. The teams played well enough and the status quo was understandable but rarely can a match have featured so little bite. Lee Mason managed to irritate with his refereeing but again, I don’t know that he did anything dramatically wrong (was it a penalty on 44 seconds?) that actually affected things (people started to get irate about where throw-ins were being taken from, which told its own story).
So yes, hurray, three more points and one more home game. It’s been an odd season and one that didn’t get going until Europa was behind us, but it does feel slightly as if the end is coming too soon. But in other ways it feels like the end can’t come soon enough. Strange days in SW6.