Wigan 4 United 5: Sensational comeback sees Reds edge nine-goal thriller
Posted by nickogs20 on February 18, 2009
|Wigan Athletic Reserves||4-5||Manchester United Reserves|
|Cywka 33, 54||–||Welbeck 11, 69|
|Kupisz 45||–||Macheda 62, 67|
|Holt 58 (pen)||–||Martin 80|
It’s been a relatively sedate reserve season so far – lots of tight, cagey affairs, a smattering of 0-0 draws and not too many goals. Typical then that the one time the fixture lists conspired to have the first-team in action at the same time, the attention-starved second string were taking part in a quite exhilarating clash with Wigan at Robin Park. Nine goals, eight yellow cards, one red, penalties given and not given… this one had it all, including – ultimately – an astonishing comeback that clinched a first win for the Reds in this fixture since the Latics joined the Premer League North in 2005.
The big team news was the presence of Danny Welbeck in the side, fresh from scoring sublimely for the first team at the weekend and making only his third reserve appearance of the season – he re-formed the partnership with Kiko Macheda that was so fruitful last season. Elsewhere, Ben Amos returned between the posts, while the team retained a youthful presence throughout the side with academy regulars Matt James, Joe Dudgeon, Oliver Gill and Cameron Stewart all in the starting selection.
The early signs were that the impressive understanding Welbeck and Macheda forged at academy level was still very much in place. Both looked threatening early on and duly combined to give United the lead, Macheda’s slide-rule pass sending Welbeck clear on goal and the Longsight-born striker sending a left-footed strike arrowing into the bottom corner.
If anyone thought that goal was the cue for the Reds to go on and dominate the game, they were in for something of a shock. Such incisive United breaks became increasingly rare as a strong Wigan side, featuring the likes of Erik Edman and new signing Ben Watson, started to seize control of proceedings. United’s inexperienced and somewhat patchwork defence came under plenty of pressure and – somewhat unusually as far as this season is concerned – eventually buckled in dramatic fashion.
The first blow was struck just after the half-hour mark, Watson’s corner being headed home by the unmarked Tomasz Cywka – the Polish Under-21 international posed the Reds plenty of problems in the reverse fixture back in October, and leaving him with a free header from six yards out was somewhat criminal. Worse was to follow right on the stroke of half-time, Cywka’s compatriot Tomasz Kupisz gleefully seizing on Gill’s shanked clearance and dinking the ball past the helpless Amos.
Stern words were apparently dispensed at the interval by Solskjaer and his assistant Warren Joyce (who also withdrew Gill and Stewart, sending Jimmy Derbyshire and Magnus Eikrem into the fray) but they didn’t appear to immediately take effect. The second half was still less than ten minutes old when Cywka exposed more shoddy set-piece marking to volley home his second, and when Latics skipper Joe Holt converted a penalty – rather dubiously awarded after Holt had gone to ground under minimal contact from opposing skipper Corry Evans – before the hour mark, the game looked over and a morale-denting defeat looked on the cards.
What followed in the remaining half-hour of play was Roy of the Rovers stuff. Welbeck and Macheda – hitherto stifled and forced to look on as the defence was repeatedly breached – sprang back into life, thanks in no small part to the promptings of Lee Martin, who was to take on a central role in the remarkable Red resurgence that would follow.
4-1 nearly instantly became 4-2, Martin exchanging passes with Macheda and drawing the defence to him before feeding the Italian, who was as clinical as ever inside the box. If that breathed a bit of life back into the match, five minutes later it was really game on – the same two players combining, Martin this time beating his man on the right-flank before finding Macheda with a precise pull-back. The 17 year-old unerringly steered the ball back across Nicholls in the Wigan goal and once more found the corner.
You barely had chance to catch your breath before the unthinkable happened. Martin’s floated freekick was knocked back across goal by Evans for the waiting Welbeck to tap in, and those in red shirts were ecstatic – from 4-1 down to 4-4 in just ten minutes. Solskjaer – no stranger to a dramatic comeback himself of course – looked on in admiration, trying to keep his cool but struggling to suppress the adrenalin that must by now have been flowing in abundance.
That euphoria in the United ranks was soon tempered somewhat – temper being the operative word actually. Impressive as he has been this season, Signor Macheda has also occasionally shown a petulant side, or more specifically a vulnerability when exposed to provocation or rough treatment, and he was lucky to escape a red card in an U18 match against Manchester City earlier in the season. He was less fortunate here however, the referee being perfectly placed to see him kick out in irritation at a robust challenge from Pearson and being left with little choice but the dismiss the United striker.
Twenty minutes still to play with only ten men – the momentum the Reds had built up had dissipated and there was the very real risk of all the hard work involved in pulling back from 4-1 down being wasted. A shell-shocked Wigan side were thinking they could win the game all over again and Keith Bertschin’s boys began to re-take a foothold in the match – could United hold them off? Too right they could, and then some – hanging on for a draw wasn’t on the agenda, the Reds wanted the unlikeliest of wins… and they duly got it!
Welbeck was the architect, at first holding the ball up well on the edge of the box before sending his marker dizzy with a series of feints that opened up the space for him to outpace the defence on the left flank and fire across a low centre. Pearson was unable to clear, only managing to divert the ball into the path of the lurking Martin, and one toe-poked finish later the Reds were back in the lead – it seemed like an awful long time since they last held the advantage at 1-0.
The Wigan fans present couldn’t believe what they were seeing, and by the looks of it neither could their team, the depleted Reds never really finding themselves overly exerted as they sought to protect their lead as the last ten minutes ticked away. The celebrations and looks on the faces of Ole, his coaching colleagues and his charges said it all at the final whistle, a truly epic win that had Manchester United written all over it.
After the game, Wigan boss Bertschin was quick to point to defensive errors from his side as the key factor in the Reds’ comeback, but that does United’s attacking players a great disservice. Perhaps the Latics slacked off with the game seemingly in the bag, but some of the interplay between the outstanding Martin, Welbeck and Macheda was an absolute joy to watch, the hosts simply unable to deal with the pace at which their visitors attacked. You can see the highlights here, well worth a watch if you’ve not seen them already.
Post-match reaction from Lee Martin (speaking to MUTV):
“Credit to all the boys tonight, we dug in deep and it was a hard game, but we showed the team spirit and we deserved it. Everyone wanted to win the game and we were all playing for each other.
“We always believe. We’ve got a talented bunch of lads. You saw last week against Bolton how good we are. On our day we’re better than any team. It’s one of those where we had to dig deep, and we did.”
And from Danny Welbeck:
“Ole rubs off on us. The speech he gave us at half-time was a real inspiration and we went and did our stuff out on the pitch. Credit to all the players and the backroom staff because the spirit was high and we came back into it.”
1. Ben Amos
2. Richard Eckersley
3. Joe Dudgeon (15. Robbie Brady 77)
4. Corry Evans (c)
5. Oliver Gill (12. Jimmy Derbyshire 46)
6. Matt James
7. Danny Welbeck
8. Rodrigo Possebon
9. Federico Macheda
10. Lee Martin
11. Cameron Stewart (14. Magnus Eikrem 46)
Subs not used
13. Conor Devlin
16. Oliver Norwood
Booked: Gill, Martin, Possebon, Welbeck, Evans
Sent Off: Macheda
Wigan: Nicholls, Montrose, Field, Pearson, Edman, Mahon (Redmond 83), Routledge, Watson (Mahon 57), Holt, Kupisz, Cywka
Subs not used: Williams, Buxton, McManaman