Wigan Athletic: Talking points from Sutton United (h)
Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Latics' penalty shoot-out defeat to Sutton United in the Papa John's Trophy in midweek...
1 Wember-not to be! At the beginning of the season, the much-maligned Papa John's Trophy would have been a distant fourth on the priority list for Leam Richardson and Latics. But having come all the way to the last four, and a home semi-final against a team from the division below, it's no wonder there's such a feeling of 'what might have been' in the air. Richardson did all he could, by naming a stronger side than anyone expected, given the hectic schedule in the league. But in the end, it just wasn't to be, leaving Latics to put all their eggs in the promotion basket. Which, as the manager rightly says, will define whether the campaign will be judged as a success or not.
2 Pride restored! The competition will always have a special place in the hearts of Latics fans, especially those who saw their team pick up either the Freight Rover Trophy in 1985 or the Auto Windscreens Shield in 1999. Sadly, in recent years, the decision to allow in Premier League Under-21 sides has had a massive devaluing effect on its credibility. But the sight of seeing some of Latics' stars of tomorrow taking their first tentative steps in the first team gave the competition added meaning to this season's participation. And the quarter-final victory over Arsenal Under-21 - in front of a bumper crowd that saw the kick-off put back - will live long in the memory, especially for matchwinner Divin Baningime.
3 Lottery! Given Latics' hate-hate relationship with penalty shoot-outs over the years, there would have been a fair few dreading the inevitable outcome as soon as the final whistle went. After Max Power - a deadball specialist - missed with the opener, we saw Graeme Shinnie, Will Keane, James McClean, Josh Magennis, Gwion Edwards and Jamie McGrath score with the minimum of fuss. That left Kell Watts, Jason Kerr, Jamie Jones and Tendayi Darikwa still to take one. Jones had twice taken - and scored - penalties in shoot-outs this term, while Kerr had converted the winning spot-kick at Accrington in the round of 16. It was a huge surprise, therefore, to see Darikwa – who didn’t look comfortable on his approach – step up...with Latics left to wonder what might have been.
4 Derby delight! Latics' failure to make the final does at least mean no more disruption to the already crammed fixture list. And the visit of near-neighbours Bolton will remain on the first Saturday in April. A game of such magnitude deserves to be played on a weekend, rather than shunted on to a midweek night later in the campaign. Whether or not Greater Manchester Police would share that sentiment is, of course, another matter…
5 Saluting Sutton! It's all too easy to only look at Tuesday's result from Latics' point of view. But one look at the celebrations on the pitch and in the away end underlined exactly what a massive achievement it was for a Sutton side who only won promotion to the EFL last summer. I'm even prepared to forgive the local radio commentator who, from the press box seat directly behind, proceeded to SHOUT AT AN ANNOYINGLY LOUD VOLUME FROM FIRST WHISTLE TO LAST, REACHING A CRESCENDO DURING PENALTIES THAT MEANT HIS LISTENERS BACK IN SUTTON WOULD HAVE HEARD HIM WITHOUT THEIR RADIO... Latics have been that small club living their dreams - and other club's dreams - in the past. This time it was Sutton's turn, and fair play to them for that.