Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Sunday March 20 2011
Nine cup finals was the cry before this game, well the first one is over now for the other eight
Wigan Athletic took the three points from this relegation battle with Birmingham City when Maynor Figueroa fired home the winner from the edge of the area two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the match.
The game started with Latics looking a little nervy in their play but they did create the first chance when Tom Cleverley spun on the edge of the Birmingham box and fired in a low effort that Ben Foster took comfortably.
Birmingham took the lead though in the 6th minute of the game, referee Lee Probert awarded a free kick to the visitors 35 yards out, Larsson took the kick, it was cleared by the Latics defence but only to the edge of the area, the ball was lofted back into the mix and Liam Ridgewell fired home from six yards, he looked offside and replays confirmed that he was but the goal stood.
The stuffing looked to have been knocked out of the Latics by this goal and it took a while for them to get sorted out, passes were going astray and there wasn`t too much movement off the ball, but slowly and surely they came back into it. The passing became much crisper and an excellent move set up the Latics equaliser.
A series of probing passes that had the Birmingham defence stretched ended when Ben Watson played a delightful ball for Emmerson Boyce, the overlapping fullback beat his marker for pace and whipped in a thunderous cross from the by-line, low and hard, Birmingham keeper Ben Foster could only parry the ball to the on-rushing Tom Cleverley who fired home from two yards.
Latics were now firmly in the ascendancy and the passing and the movement of Watson, Moses, N`Zogbia and Cleverley had the Birmingham team chasing shadows at times.
Chances came and went, McCarthy blazed over, in one move McCarthy miss hit, the ball spun to Cleverley 8 yards out, again he miss-hit his shot and it landed at the feet of Figueroa coming in at the far post, the Honduras international fired his first time effort into the midriff of Foster in the Birmingham goal.
Conor Sammon and Hugo Rodallega came on in a double substitution replacing Di Santo and Moses and immediately looked like they have been playing together all season.
Sammon is raw but looks like a handful, with just 15 minutes to go the big Irishman found space in the box and fired a thunderous shot goalwards, Birmingham defender Roger Johnson threw himself in the path and prevented what looked a certain goal.
Chances were coming thick and fast for the Latics now and at one point the Birmingham box was more akin to a pinball machine as the Latics piled on the pressure but the defenders defended with their lives.
Then with time running out came Figueroa`s winner, 92 minutes on the clock, Tom Cleverley pushed the ball into the path of the Latics left back, one touch with his left then a super strike with his right and the points where in the bag, the ground erupted at the final whistle, part one of nine completed.
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Date:Sunday March 20 2011
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