Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Sunday February 6 2011
Absorbing, exciting, exhilarating, fascinating, heart-pounding, nerve-racking, thrilling, all words that have been used to describe yesterdays game between the Latics and Blackburn but the word that is possibly the most significant as far as the Latics are concerned is 'win`.
In a game that anything less than the three points would have been a disaster the Latics delivered, they delivered against a direct, physical Blackburn side who fought all the way, they delivered against a boggy pitch and weather conditions that made the playing surface deteriorate considerably as the match wore on, they delivered and secured the points that allowed the club to climb out of the bottom three.
Martinez started the game with a very attacking line-up, a front three of Rodallega, Moses and N`Zogbia and it appeared that the midfield trio McCarthy, Diame and Watson had license to join the attack as and when they desired.
A surprise return for Alcaraz at centre-back was a welcome sight and the Paraguay international had a steadying influence all afternoon, but its McCarthy`s re-emergence from his lengthy injury lay-off that is really getting the Latics heart to beat with a more profound tempo.
The youngster scored two goals, making that three in four league games and he was the foundation that the Latics built the win on.
The game started brightly for both sides but Pedersen`s excellent delivery from out wide and set pieces was troubling the Latics defence, the opening goal however had nothing to do with Pedersen, on 23 minutes Hoilett carried the ball through midfield and slipped in Brett Emerton who had acres of room down the right, the Australian took the ball to the dead ball line and fired a cross low and hard which was met at the near post by Jason Roberts who calmly side footed past Al-Habsi, 0-1.
The goal rocked Latics a little but they steadied the ship and on 35 minutes found an equaliser, Emmerson Boyce raced into the box and took a short pass from Victor Moses, Boyce hit a crisp low drive that Rovers keeper Robinson did well to parry out, James McCarthy was the first to react and from a tight angle he swivelled and fired into the net, 1-1.
Both sides continued to press but it was the Latics who took the lead, 5 minutes after half time a long up-field punt from Al-Habsi had Chris Samba and Paul Robinson in a muddle, Hugo Rodallega nipped the ball away from the pair of them, rounded Robinson and hit a left footed strike in at the near post with Samba scrambling back, 2-1.
The rain was now lashing down and the pitch deteriorating badly, but that didn`t stop the Latics from scoring a breath-taking goal on 55 minutes. In a crowded Blackburn goal mouth, N`Zogbia was teasing with the ball at his feet, faced with two Rovers defenders he nudged the ball two yards to an incoming James McCarthy.
McCarthy was faced with five defenders between himself and the goal, but he stayed calm and cool, juggled the ball, twice with his right foot, once with his knee, onto his left and fired a half volley into the far corner giving Robinson no chance, fantastic, 3-1.
Blackburn hit back almost immediately, a corner was swung in, up rose Samba a yard out and crashed a header home, 3-2, game on again.
On 65 minutes Diame received the ball from a throw-in deep in the Blackburn half, he spun past Salgado who clipped the Frenchman`s ankles a yard inside the box, referee Mike Dean had no hesitation, penalty, up stepped Ben Watson and cracked the ball straight down the middle with Robinson diving desperately to his right, 4-2.
Neither side gave up the ghost and although the pitch was now in a dreadful state both sides were going for it, on 81 minutes Blackburn sub David Dunn appeared to be going nowhere until Emmerson Boyce stuck out a foot, Mike Dean pointed to the spot, up stepped Dunn and although Al-Habsi went the right way, too much power on the kick beat the Latics keeper, 4-3, definitely game on.
A very nervy last 9 minutes, then referee Mike Dean goes and adds to the tension by signalling another five minutes stoppage time. The Latics held firm, the game was won and the points in the bag.
Date:Sunday February 6 2011
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