Barnett the Ripper ruins Doncaster’s hard work

Match report: Wigan Athletic 2-2 Doncaster Rovers

Date: 20/08/2013 – Competition: Skybet Championship

Rovers Return
Expectant Wigan were lucky not to be scalped for the second time in four days as defender Leon Barnett’s 89th minute goal drew the match level to 2-2. Just three days after the 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth, Wigan nearly fell short against newly-promoted Doncaster. Wigan were the pre-match favourites in what was their first Championship home game of the season, but things soon changed as the first half drew to a close. Doncaster, who came up as League One champions, returned to the Championship at the first time of asking, largely helped by their 15 away wins.

Line ups:
Wigan XI (4-1-4-1/4-1-2-2-1): Carson, Boyce (c), Barnett, Perch, Crainey, Watson, Maloney, McCarthy, McCann, McClean, Holt
Wigan subs: Nicholls, Beausejour, Espinoza, McArthur, Gomez, Dicko, Fortune
When defending, Wigan’s shape was a 4-1-4-1 with Watson plugging the defence-midfield gap. When attacking, they changed to a 4-1-2-2-1.

Doncaster XI (4-4-2/4-4-1-1): Turnbull, Wabara, Jones (c), Khumalo, Husband, Coppinger, Keegan, Wellens, Cotterill, Brown, Robinson
Doncaster subs: Maxted, Quinn, Furman, Syers, Duffy, Paynter, McCullough
When defending, Doncaster’s shape was a 4-4-2. When attacking, they changed to a 4-4-1-1 with Chris Brown dropping into the hole.

Dominant Wigan shot down early on
Grant Holt came close to doubling his Wigan goal tally just five minutes into the game when he met Stephen Crainey’s cross, heading just wide. Doncaster striker Chris Brown proved to be a handful for the Wigan defence early on when he headed over the cross bar after Scott Carson failed to claim an aerial ball, beating James Perch in the air. The resulting goal-kick quickly turned into a right-sided Wigan attack with Boyce and Maloney linking up well. A delightful one-two was played, and Grant Holt volleyed just wide from a Boyce cross. The former Norwich talisman also had a penalty shout turned down after being blatantly dragged down in an off-the-ball incident just a minute after shooting wide. Wigan’s dominance once again failed to result in a goal when Chris McCann was played through on goal in another Latics counter-attack, directing his shot straight at the ‘keeper. The rebound fell to ex-Sunderland boy James McClean, who then mishit the volley. Wigan’s right side caused all sorts of problems in the opening twenty minutes, and it seemed like there was only a matter of time until Wigan fathomed a goal. They came close, once again from the right side, as Shaun Maloney’s attempted cross nearly crept in at the near post, only for Turnbull to palm the ball away.

A free-kick deep inside Doncaster’s own half was awarded to the visitors shortly after the chance. The free-kick was punted up-field to Brown, who flicked the ball on for summer signing Theo Robinson, who held the ball up well against defender Leon Barnett, smashing the ball into the bottom corner. The goal was entirely against the run of play, but proved that quality beats quantity. Wigan now needed an equaliser, but Doncaster’s tails were up and they wanted another goal themselves. Maloney drew two fouls in a short space of time when leading Wigan counter-attacks, resulting in bookings for Ritchie Wellens and James Husband. Wigan were playing very direct and were using striker Grant Holt as an excuse to lazily hoof the ball when they couldn’t utilise space, rather than starting again. This meant that Doncaster could win the ball aerially and counter-attack. They did so, and won a corner on the break. Former Wigan winger David Cotterill’s corner was headed away to Doncaster centre-back Bongani Khumalo, who crossed the ball to the far post towards skipper Rob Jones. Carson, once again, tried and failed to claim the ball, allowing Jones to head back across goal to Chris Brown, who nodded the ball into the back of the net. The visitors had taken a shock 2-0 lead, but it was all they deserved after executing their game plan well. Wigan’s inability to defend crosses had proved costly, and were booed off at half-time, perhaps deservedly.

Half-time (0-2) notes

  • Wigan have found it all too easy to hoof the ball up-field.
  • Long balls to Holt need to be to his chest, not his head.
  • Wigan’s midfield have failed to offer the short-pass, leaving no option but to go long.
  • Carson looks a liability when trying to claim aerial balls.
  • There is a clear lack of pace and creativity throughout the team.
  • Wigan full backs will be exploited by pace.
  • Theo Robinson’s constant movement caused problems.
  • Wigan centre-backs have struggled against Chris Brown’s strength and aerial ability.
  • Doncaster have defended well from long balls and crosses.
  • The visitors have remained compact, closing up spaces between midfield and defence.
  • Overlapping on the wings would cause problems for Doncaster.

Shirt-rippingly good volley rescues a point for Wigan
Ben Watson was rightly hooked at half-time after misplacing a number of passes, being replaced by Marc-Antoine Fortune. Wigan’s change in personnel allowed a change in formation, with the Scot opting for a 4-4-2. Coyle had realised that an anchorman was not needed as Doncaster had nobody exploiting the space between Wigan’s midfield and defence, and that the home side needed an alternative option to the seemingly obligatory long ball. The Latics were desperate for an early second half goal, but the first chance of the half fell to Doncaster. They hit the post after a cross from the left-hand side, leaving Wigan fans’ hearts in mouths. Rovers manager Paul Dickov decided to bring on Dean Furman for Ritchie Wellens in order to avoid a second yellow card. Wigan started the second half well, winning a series of corners but once again failed to hit the target. Never mind hitting the target, James McClean needed to stop over-hitting crosses. McClean’s one dimensional game-play had become predictable, and the Irish winger had shown an obvious lack of composure throughout the match. Wigan’s build-up play had improved greatly after the introduction of Fortune, with more balls being played in to feet. 57 minutes into the match, Fortune was fouled on the edge of the box after turning with the ball. There was only one man who was going to take it: Shaun Maloney. The free-kick specialist was first to the ball and put his proverbial name on it. He hit the ball with power and precision, dipping the ball over the wall and into the bottom-right corner. Yet another beautiful Maloney free-kick had got Wigan back into a match, after scoring 2 towards the end of last season against QPR and Arsenal, respectively. The goal was just what Wigan needed; a “kick up the arse,” one supporter rightly claimed.

Shortly after the Wigan goal, James McClean was replaced by Jean Beausejour. This had been coming all night, with McClean not having the best of games. Beausejour’s introduction gave Wigan a new shape, with Wigan changing to a 4-2-1-3 as they searched desperately for an equaliser. As the game went on, it became apparent that Beausejour’s composure and intelligence on the ball allowed him to link up well with Fortune and, despite being on the opposite flank, Maloney. The referee’s failure to book Ross Turnbull for repeated time-wasting riled the home fans, which was coupled with a poor decision to award Doncaster an 80th minute free-kick when Boyce was strangely punished for shielding the ball. The free-kick didn’t prove costly, but if it had, there would have been a list full of questions to be answered. Quinn replaced Coppinger for the visitors, and Gomez replaced McCann for the home side, just shy of 10 minutes remaining. McCann had been ineffectual all night long, and probably should have been substituted earlier. Gomez’s instinct for a killer pass opened up a can of worms as Wigan piled the pressure on Doncaster, late on. He linked up well with the front three and Maloney. The substitutes had made a considerable impact thus far. Fortune and Beausejour had changed Wigan’s build up play completely; the ball was on the ground a lot more, and their high work-rate represented their admirable attitude. Theo Robinson’s attempt to waste time earned himself a yellow card with just 4 minutes left to play.

Wigan won a corner with one minute remaining when Khumalo blocked a Shaun Maloney effort. The corner was taken short by Jordi Gomez to Fortune, which annoyed some fans, who shouted in unison, “get it in the f*cking box!” However, Fortune used Gomez as a decoy; a dummy runner, allowing him to beat his man and get to the byline. Pat Richards would have been proud. Fortune drilled a teasing ball into the box, which was met by Leon Barnett’s right foot, unleashing a powerful volley into the net. Barnett ran off celebrating, followed by the Wigan players, and ripped open his shirt in the passion of the moment. All Wigan’s hard work and persistence had gone into that equalising goal, and seemingly into Barnett’s ripped shirt. You’d have thought he’d scored the winner in the FA Cup (that’s a familiar sight), but no, he’d scored an equaliser against Doncaster. Donny weren’t up for wasting time now, and came close to snatching all three points as Billy Paynter’s header shook the crossbar after a fine Theo Robinson cross. After five minutes of injury time, the referee blew the full time whistle. Wigan boss Owen Coyle was not happy with a point, explaining “No manager wants to be 2-0 down and ordinarily you would be happy with a point. But in the second half we created enough chances to win.” His opposite number, Dickov, was a man of mixed emotions, saying “I’m disappointed not to come away with all three points, but I’m very proud of the performance. To come here, against what I think is one of the best squads in the division, and play like that is excellent.”

Full-time (2-2) notes

  • Stephen Crainey’s lack of pace and inability to read the game tonight meant he had a bad game.
  • Wigan deserved their point for their persistence and attacking dominance.
  • Wigan did not create enough clear-cut chances and did not finish well.
  • Fortune and Beausejour must start on Sunday for Wigan. Wigan could benefit from swapping Boyce and Perch.
  • Doncaster deserved at least a point, and looked a better passing side than Wigan.
  • The visitors looked composed on the ball but must create more chances from open play.
  • Doncaster defended well until the introduction of Wigan’s substitutes.
  • Robinson’s pace and Brown’s hard work and link-up will trouble defenders.

Man of the Match: Chris Brown (Doncaster)
The 6-foot 3 target man’s intelligent runs dragged out the Wigan centre-backs on numerous occasions, creating space for Robinson to run into. He won most of his aerial battles, and his strength made him a constant problem for Barnett and, in particular, Perch. He linked up well with the midfield, and his fine performance was rewarded with a goal.

Statistics
Possession: 55% – 45%
Shots (on target): 20 (7) – 13 (3)
Corners: 6 – 4
Bookings: 0 – 3 (Wellens, Husband, Robinson)
Attendance: 14,304
Referee: C Boyeson

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