Roberto Martinez’s first game in charge of Wigan was a win over Aston Villa and, now that he’s finally relegated the Latics and with his future at the club hanging in the balance, he would no doubt have been hoping to sign off their eight year Premier League stay with another victory yesterday.
But it wasn’t to be. Bennett tested Al Habsi with an early free kick and then, with five minutes played, Agbonlahor played in Bent, who was handed a rare start in the absence of the suspended Benteke. Bent reminded us all why we had paid £18 million for him as he was left with a lot to do to before he finished clinically, driving low from the edge of the area. It was a fine goal and a good way for the side-lined number 9 to put himself on the transfer market, as most Villans suspect he’ll be plying his trade elsewhere come August.
As the 3,896 travelling Villa fans sang the daftest song of the season, if not the Premier League era, in the sunshine, Wigan woke up and played with dogged determination at a panicky pace.
The 19th minute saw the travelling fans don their Petrov masks to salute the retiring captain, who signalled his approval from his place on the bench.
Two minutes later, with the applause for Petrov continuing, Wigan equalised when Boyce rose above Bennett and met Espinoza’s cross with a powerful header that easily beat Guzan.
In first half injury time, the visiting Villans fell behind. Westwood cleverly cleared Watson’s effort off the line, only to watch the ball bounce off Baker and into the net – not for the first time this season.
As the final forty-five minutes of Wigan’s reign in the Premier League got underway, both Kone and McCarthy looked threatening but were unable to find the net.
Just after the hour mark, Bennett delivered a free kick and Vlaar took a leaf out of Lowton’s book as he brought the ball down, wheeled around and unleashed a powerful volley from eighteen yards.
With the match level, both sides pushed for the winner, although neither keeper was tested in the final thirty minutes. McCarthy came close to ending Wigan’s rollercoaster ride through the Premier League on a high in the 79th minute, with his volley rattling Guzan’s crossbar.
At full time, overexcited Latics ran on to the pitch to embrace their FA Cup winning squad while the Villans applauded their own players who, in the words of Lambert, “don’t look like novices any more”.