We welcome Wigan Athletic to St James Park for the 4th Round of the FA Cup. They’re the current holders and 10th in the Premier League, which unsurprisingly makes us 11/5 underdogs for the game. I make four changes, with Miltos Makris making replacing Dacian Varga and making his debut, Niccolo Marchi comes in for Jonny Hayes, Bertin Matip starts ahead of Jay Spearing and Jonathan Bond replaces Metodi Spasov in goal. Wigan prove why they’re favourites as early as the third minute when a free kick by Stam from 25 yards goes just wide. Our first chance comes two minutes later when Matip plays a through ball to Michele Marconi, who coolly finishes from 18 yards for his 16th goal of the season. Two minutes later, we find the net again! Sadly, it’s only the side netting as Makris goes close to a dream start on his debut. He has a further chance to open his account on his debut a minute later when Michel plays him in, but he shoots straight at the keeper from 18 yards; the shot is parried, but Wigan are able to clear before we can get to the rebound. The first yellow card of the game is picked up by Gennaro Riccardi in the 9th minute for a foul on Dempsey. Dempsey is in the action 8 minutes later when he crosses from the left, but McDonald blazes over the bar from 8 yards out. Bradley Johnson joins Riccardi in the referee’s book in the 24th minute. We come close to extending our lead in the 28th minute after some good play around the area, but the keeper saves Marchi’s effort from 18 yards and Wigan are able to clear the ball for a throw-in. Diame volleys over for the visitors in the 39th minute, whilst Makris shoots straight at the keeper again in the 44th minute. In stoppage time, Michel passes to Marconi, who runs from the halfway line. It looks like being a wonderful FA Cup goal, but the keeper turns it behind for a corner.
It’s been a pulsating first half that has somehow ended with only one goal, but will the second half produce the same level of excitement? The visitors start well, with Tomlin running down the left wing in the 46th minute – he cuts in and unleashes a fierce shot that Bond does well to save at his near post. Two minutes later, Tomlin hits a shot from 20 yards that beats Bond, but the crossbar comes to our rescue; we pick up the rebound and counter and their keeper saves from Marconi to keep the score at 1-0. A second goal in the game is looking inevitable and it comes in the 49th minute – Marchi rolls the ball along the edge of the area and Bradley Johnson thunders in his 8th goal of the season from 20 yards. Disaster strikes in the 55th minute when Michel gets injured by Stam. Thankfully, it’s not too bad and he’s only out for 3-4 days with a dead leg. Ten minutes after Michel goes off injured, Matip takes an outswinging corner that Marconi meets at the near post with a good header. Wigan have a man on each post and it hits the man on the far post, but trickles over the line for Marconi’s 17th goal of the season. The 72nd minute sees Marchi playing in Ryan Mason, who runs from the halfway line before shooting from 16 yards, but his shot goes just wide. Another outswinging corner from Matip in the 76th minute is met at the near post, this time by Manuel Gavilan; however, his header goes over. Marchi shoots straight at the keeper from 18 yards in the 90th minute, whilst Makris shoots straight at the keeper (again!) in the first minute, so we have to settle for a 3-0 victory. Or so it seems. The second minute of stoppage time sees Cole cross from the left and the ball hits Matip and beats Bond at the near post for an own goal, but it’s too little too late for the FA Cup holders to the delight of the 8,361 in attendance. Marconi is named Man of the Match with a rating of 8.9 and two goals. Our 3-1 victory is the biggest shock of the round, something that I’m not sure if I’m pleased to read or not! Our reward is an away tie against Southampton or Coventry City.
David Goikoetxea rejects the loan offer from Badajoz, whilst Crewe offer to extend Daniel Paxton’s loan, which is accepted by both myself and Paxton. Chilean central midfielder Alvaro Pellicer joins on a week’s trial, whilst I sign Czech midfielder/attacking midfielder Vaclav Kostka from Ceske Budejovice and pay £50,000 in compensation.
Our game against Wigan was our last game of the month and the monthly awards follow soon after. Gennaro Riccardi comes third in the Player of the Month award, whilst Michele Marconi’s 30 yarder against Swindon comes second in the Goal of the Month award.
And from another angle: