Bents Early Present
What a game, this literally had everything, eight goals, two hat tricks, a saved penalty, a sending off, 8 bookings, two defences intent on giving away goals like there was no tomorrow and a Blackburn Santa fighting with the police !
On my way to the ground I ran into an old friend who forecast a 4-nil win to Latics.
I suggested this had been conceived in the pub and there was no way we would score four.
I was right sort of we scored five!
The team news was interesting with Koumas and Granqvist dropped to the bench and Scharner who has been absolutely terrible in midfield moved to his correct position of centre half, Brown replacing him in the centre of midfield.
Latics started off like an express train, Bent was put through on 5 minutes but chose to chest the ball down when a header seemed the best option and the chance was wasted.
The Blackburn back four looked there for the taking in particular Christopher Samba who seemed to resort to fouling the Latics front line at every opportunity.
It was no surprise therefore when the inspirational Denny Landzaat beat the offside trap and coolly slotted past Brad Friedel.
This sent the home fans into ecstasy and this sensation was intensified when Bent beat the hapless Samba and fired past Friedel.
Latics hadn`t scored two at home since August and this was then beaten when a cross into a crowded box was bulleted into the net by Scharner for his third goal in three games (albeit one an own goal).
This being Latics nobody was confident that we had the game won and Mr Clattenburg surprised all 22 players by awarding a penalty against Heskey in the 30th minute for holding onto an attacker at a corner.
This decision was amazing in the fact it had happened at every corner we had during the game and he had spoken to the players but not awarded any penalty for us.
The argument will be no doubt that the ball wasn`t in play but none the less it was a harsh decision.
This was Blackburn`s first real attempt on goal and Kirkland showed his class by diving to his right to turn the ball away.
The game was played at a frenetic pace the only player who seemed to have any time on the ball was Landzaat who was at the fulcrum of everything the blues did today.
It is being kind to Blackburn to say they are a physical side and in all honesty they could have had more yellow cards than those they accrued.
In the 40th minute Heskey collapsed under a tackle which was ruled fair. This was the fourth time he had gone down but this time he left the pitch on a stretcher being replaced by Julius Agahowa.
Landzaat and Brown harried the Blackburn midfield into mistakes all afternoon and it seemed that we would go into half time 3 nil up when in the third of three minutes added on Santa Cruz found the ball out wide on the left and blasted the ball past a diving Kirkland for one of the goals of the season so far.
The second half started at the same pace with most of Latic`s creative play being directed towards Valencia who gave the Blackburn left back a testing afternoon.
Blackburn were positive going forward and when a set piece found Reid his header was well saved by Kirkland but Santa Cruz was quicker to react than any of the Latics players and fired the ball into the back of the net.
There had been so many bookings it seemed inevitable that someone would be sent off however when Emerton received his second yellow card it was for a challenge on Taylor which whilst a foul was far less severe than some others that had passed unpunished.
If the cynics amongst the Latics fans thought this would cause problems for the Blues they were proved right, Santa Cruz completing his hat trick.
This was going to be a test of character of the new Latics regieme and the players passed .
Latics continued to push forward with Agahowa twice and Taylor wasting good openings.
Latics took the lead agasin when a clearance found Valencia who refused to be closed down crossing for Bent to get his second and Latics fourth.
Even then the game wasn`t closed down by Latics something which must concern an ex-centre half like Steve Bruce and Kirkland had to be quick off his line during a farcical goal mouth scramble
Agahowa ran around trying to score his first goal for the team but didn`t look up to the standard required for this level, in fact to everyone`s amazement he broke down the right and had the vision to see the irrepressible Bent steaming up the middle to score a hat trick for the team.
Still the game wasn`t shut down and there were more fouls including one on Kilbane in the last minute by Savage which was worse than many of the tackles that had goner before.
The final whistle eventually came after four minutes of added time and the relief echoed all round the ground as Latics secured their first win in 14 attempts.
Would be found out against better teams, need to learn how to defend a lead. 15 games since a shut out tells its own story
I could separate Bent and Landzaat and have awarded them both 9/10
Denny was the coolest head on the pitch, most of our creative play came form him and he harried their midfield all day and also covered well at the back. Under SB he really seems to have found his niche.