Cotterill Recalls Wigan Switch
Posted: Friday, March 10th 2017
Saturday, March 11th 2017
Aden Flint scrambled home a priceless winner two minutes from time to boost City’s survival hopes and propel Lee Johnson’s side out of the Sky Bet Championship drop zone on goal difference.
City were always the more likely winners and came on strong in the closing stages, finally making the breakthrough late on to secure a first away league win since September in front of nearly 1,000 travelling supporters.
Johnson welcomed Tammy Abraham back into his starting line-up after a month on the sidelines nursing a thigh injury.
The striker’s return was one of four changes, with Gary O’Neil, Lee Tomlin and Matty Taylor all earning recalls.
Elsewhere, Frank Fielding kept his place in goal despite Fabian Giefer’s return to fitness, while Korey Smith started at right-back in an orthodox 4-4-2 formation.
The win gives City a league double over Wigan for the first time since the 1997/98 season.
The pitch at the DW Stadium had been a topic of conversation in the build-up to the game and it was easy to see why.
The middle third was particularly patchy, with stray lumps of turf not conducive to intricate football.
Perhaps no surprise, then, that David Cotterill took the more direct approach when he nipped in ahead of namesake Perkins and headed straight for goal.
His shot from distance may have sailed harmlessly over, but was an early indicator of City’s attacking intent.
Cotterill was involved against his former club again when he crossed well from the byeline for the onrushing Taylor, who could not keep his header down.
City were the better side. O’Neil’s raking diagonal pass found Taylor wide on the left, who waited for Joe Bryan to deliver a low cross that only just eluded the lurking Abraham.
Wigan had offered next to nothing as an attacking threat, yet came within inches of edging in front midway through the first half.
When Jamie Hanson’s corner was headed up rather than out, the ball was laid off for Perkins to strike first time with a curling shot that only stayed out via the top of Fielding’s crossbar.
For the first time in the game the home fans were encouraged by what they were seeing, and they were on their feet again when Omar Bogle ran in behind the City defence and forced Fielding into a save at his near post.
For the most part both teams were trying to keep the ball on the floor, but when another Wigan corner was hoisted back into the danger zone, former Manchester United winger Gabriel Obertan had to be denied by another Fielding save.
From bossing the opening exchanges, City were having to cope with a sustained spell of pressure.
Having done so, Johnson’s men created the best chance of the half shortly before the interval. Tomlin’s clever footwork conjured an opening in the box for Abraham, who just hesitated for a split second to allow keeper Matt Gilks to shut down the angles and block with his chest.
The biggest talking point of the first period arrived right at the end of it, as Taylor ran through only to be held back before taking a heavy touch as the ball ran through for Gilks.
If anything it may have been the striker’s honesty that offered a reprieve to defender Jake Buxton, but Johnson’s mind was made up and he ran straight for the fourth official to plead his case as play continued.
City’s positive end to the first half rolled into the start of the second, with Tomlin far more involved. After skying a shot within seconds of the restart, the maverick attacker embarked on a solo run only halted by a crude tackle for which Callum Connolly was booked.
With exactly an hour on the clock, Johnson introduced Aaron Wilbraham for Taylor to leave City with two big men to hit, while the youthful legs of Josh Brownhill and Callum O’Dowda followed soon after in place of Marlon Pack and Cotterill.
A point on the road is not to be sniffed at, but City wanted three. Bryan overlapped down the left and crossed, but when the ball dropped for Brownhill the midfielder dragged his shot wide of the far post from 12 yards.
It was a wonderful chance to score his first goal for the club with just ten minutes to go, while Abraham elected to hurdle the ball as it headed towards the bottom corner rather than helping it goalwards.
Bryan was soon making a similar contribution. This time a deeper cross was collected on the far side of the box by Wilbraham, whose low ball back in just squirmed away from Abraham as Gilks dived at his feet.
City’s persistence was finally rewarded two minutes from time. After Tomlin’s initial corner was headed behind, he collected the ball and ran it back towards the quadrant to take another – much to the frustration of the natives, who did not feel it was a corner at all.
But referee Andrew Madley agreed with City’s number ten and awarded another flag kick, from which Abraham connected to force a point-blank save from Gilks before Flint got a vital big toe to the rebound and prodded in a priceless winner.
City still had five added minutes to negotiate, but Wigan were already a beaten side and three big points were safely in the bank.
Warnock (MacDonald 86)
Gilbey (Mandron 75)
Obertan (Weir 68)
Subs not used:
Cotterill (Brownhill 72)
Pack (O'Dowda 71)
Taylor (Wilbraham 61)
Subs not used:
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