Should have known it would not be a day for solid, workmanlike attention to duty and detail. In the UAE we were, after all, shunted by Showtime TV from its sports channels to Comedy Extra Live. Click on the picture of Kevin Kilbane and you’ll see what I mean.
The view from the away end at Wigan will be stern. Pete Sixsmith has already posted his verdict: “Little pleasure in watching this scrappy showing.” With his Soapbox column still to come, that may be the kindest thing he has to say about his afternoon at the JJB.
My verdict from Abu Dhabi, which survived in Sixer’s Sevens for only a couple of minutes before Pete’s text arrived, had not been much more upbeat: “Pending Sixer, what an awful second half.”
In that awful second half, we lived dangerously for long periods. Fortunately, Wigan were not very good either. And Kilbane made a complete hash of a reasonable chance to score; I suppose we could count on KK, bless him, not being one of those former players who find a way of proving a point against us.
Wigan’s limitations meant we had chances at the other end on the break. Cissé in particular should have doubled the lead when one on one with the keeper, albeit at an angle. Whitehead looked as likely to score from his chance as he did when limbering up to take a penalty at Blackburn last season.
Even after the equaliser, Murphy had one of those late Murphy chances. After winning a series of headers in unmenacing positions, he had a glorious opportunity to win the game when he rose to meet a great Chimbonda cross. We’ve seen him bury them, we saw the miss against Liverpool. This was a Liverpool moment.
Overall, we played some neat football, we played rather more sloppy football and we gave away possession with alarming ease in midfield.
Positives? Maybe I’m being too hard, having watched Liverpool v Man Utd earlier and finding the difference in class overwhelming. We started well and looked capable in the early stages of going on to be0 easy winners. Even when we faltered, we didn’t lose, as would have happened last season. I’m also watching Abu Man City v Chelsea so haven’t missed Robinho’s spectacular start (nor the Chelsea goals that followed).
More positives? McCartney had a decent second debut for SAFC, including one incredible block of a goalbound shot, and Rio Ferdinand’s brother did well, too, on his first.
More still? A former Mag – Titus Bramble – scored our goal. And the clownish Mags of today kept the laughs coming with a humiliating home defeat to Hull.