Writer: Niall Owens
Date:Monday May 7 2012
Antolin Alcaraz`s late winner ensured that the Latics pulled of the greatest of all great escapes` with one game remaining on Monday evening, and in the process relegated Blackburn Rovers to the Championship.
Alcaraz rose ahead of Captain Gary Caldwell to meet Jean Beausejour late corner, and sent the travelling Latics into delirium.
It was an incredible sixth win from their last eight games, and now leaves the club 5 points clear of the drop, and means the fans can enjoy the final game of the season on Sunday afternoon.
Considering the magnitude of the task the club faced, in order to ensure an eighth season at the top table, this escape will go down in the club's history as the greatest of them all.
The majority of the hard work was done in earlier games of the run in, with memorable victories against Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle.
Tonight`s performance typified the fighting spirit when many would have held firm and took a share of the points, late on they went in search of the winner.
Within the closing stages the just reward came for the faith shown in Martinez from the owner Dave Whelan, who will undoubtedly be delighted with his club's latest achievement.
Speaking to the press following the game Captain Caldwell praised his manager: 'Credit goes to him (Martinez), when everyone doubted us he held firm. He stuck to his principles and continued to play football and now we have reaped the rewards.'
The talismanic skipper was keen to stress the point that the club now needs to build on this: 'We do not want to be in this position next season, we've proven that we can more than survive at this level, we have to build on this and bring success to the fans.'
For the vast majority of the game the home side looked resigned to their fate, and Martinez`s men put in a professional performance and took advantage of the sour atmosphere within the ground.
The Latics had the better of the first half with Victor Moses causing havoc amongst the Rovers backline. Jean Beausejour was given plenty of freedom from the home side but the Latics were not able to add the killer touch.
Arguably the highlight of the half will have been Ali Al Habsi`s intervention when a chicken donning a Rovers flag made his way onto the pitch, the only time Al Habsi was called into action. The home side were unable to create pressure and carve out any genuine chances with the inform Junior Hoilett and top scorer Yakubu being kept quiet.
Martinez will have been disappointed at how his side did not press home the advantage just as they did in the clash with Newcastle last week.
As the rain continued to pour down into the second half the home side finally decided to go for it a little more.
Beausejour was on hand early into the second period when he cleared Yakubu`s goal bound attempt after a great knock down from Scott Dann.
The Latics responded and Moses should have done better when he flashed over following Franco Di Santo`s cushioned header.
The home side had a great shout for a penalty on the hour mark, when it seemed as though Emmerson Boyce took away Hoilett`s standing leg when he was about to pull the trigger.
With only ten minutes left to play Moses and James McCarthy were unable to beat Paul Robinson after some great link up play leaving the Rovers backline on the back foot.
As the home fans turned on the owners and their manager instead of pushing the team on for the winner that they required the Latics pressed for the points.
Scottish international Maloney should have sealed up the three points when he headed over from Boyce`s pin point cross, moments later Moses low cross was just too quick for substitute Conor Sammon.
From the resulting corner Paraguayan international Alcaraz headed the winner home past the despairing Robinson.
The result now means that the Latics will take to the field in August in what will be their eight consecutive season amongst the elite. An incredible feat that looked highly unlikely following their dismal home defeat to Swansea only two months ago.
This escape will go down in the history of the club as the greatest, when most had written them off, Martinez stuck with philosophy, the board held firm, and kept faith in their man and boy has it paid off, as the 3000 strong fans chanted all night: "We shall not be moved."
To read more from Niall visit his blog: laticsinanutshell.blogspot.co.uk
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Date:Monday May 7 2012
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