Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Monday May 23 2011
Wigan Athletic produced the goods for the second week in a row and took the three points at the Britannia Stadium to leap frog out of the bottom three and into 16th spot, what a fantastic finish to the season.
With the tension high, nerves stretched to breaking point and a dramatic afternoon of football in store, all the weekends Premier League games kicked off on the same day at the same time for the first time this season.
Latics knew exactly what was needed despite all the mathematical permutations that the pundits and so called experts were pondering, win the game and stay up.
Facing Stoke City is never an easy task, facing Stoke City on their home ground, when you desperately need a win and they are dead set against you achieving that is one of the fiercest challenges that you can undertake in the Premier League.
If anyone thought that Tony Pulis` side would roll over, well they were sadly mistaken.
In the first half the Latics struggled to get their game going against a very physical and direct Stoke side, Jermaine Pennant was causing problems down the Latics left, Jon Walters through the middle and the strong wind was causing problems with the Latics passing game all over the pitch.
Two great chances for Stoke saw Al-Habsi make a good save and Emmerson Boyce make a very good clearance from a Kenwyne Jones shot.
Half-time came and went with the scores at 0-0 but word from the other games as the match wore on had the Latics fans cheering wildly one moment, then going deathly quiet the next as drama was unfolding at Old Trafford, Molineux and White Hart Lane. Still the Latics had to win.
Chances came, Conor Sammon had two good efforts saved, Charles N`Zogbia was pulled back in the area by Pennant but kept his feet only to shoot wide, Tom Cleverly was through one on one with Begovic, but the Stoke keeper saved well at his near post, then with 78 minutes on the clock the deadlock was broken.
Ben Watson sent a lovely ball out left to the advancing Maynor Figueroa, the Latics left back took the ball in his stride and then hit a glorious cross into the box, Hugo Rodallega leapt magnificently to head home from a yard out, 0-1.
The tension lifted, Latics comfortably saw out the game, even the inexplicable 5 minutes stoppage time that was added went fast, the final whistle was greeted by great scenes of jubilation from the players, coaching staff, chairman and supporters, Wigan Athletic had secured a seventh consecutive season in the top flight of English football, the dream lives on.
Date:Monday May 23 2011
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