It is not a pleasant experience to see your team outplayed by a team three divisions below you. Wigan Athletic were once giant killers themselves but now the tables were turned as the Robins overcame a team 53 places above them.
Paulo Di Canio’s Swindon deserved their 2-1 victory against an uncommitted Wigan who had made nine changes from their previous game against Sunderland.
Wigan’s priority has to be Premier League survival but it was a very dispiriting spectacle for the 600 or so Latics fans who made the long trip to Wiltshire. It may be a sad indictment of modern football but for teams like Wigan, Bolton, Blackburn, Wolves and QPR the FA Cup is now an unfortunate distraction to the main event.
Wigan started the game steadily enough with returning loanee Callum McManaman showing some lively touches and good link ups. It was McManaman who was brought down by Aden Flint to give away a penalty. Ben Watson’s spot kick crashed against the upright but McManaman followed up to give Latics the lead.
Instead of giving Wigan a boost the goal seemed to galvanise Swindon who proceeded to put in a series of telling crosses and shots. Ali Al Habsi had to be at his very best to save a goal bound shot by Matt Ritchie.
Swindon were now bossing the midfield and Wigan’s Hendry Thomas, Ben Watson and James McArthur all appeared reluctant to close down their opponents.
It was no surprise when Swindon equalised, Ritchie put in an excellent cross and Alan Connell glanced his header past Al Habsi.
Swindon went into half-time in the ascendancy although Latics fans were hoping the break might give their team time to regroup and reorganise.
But when the second half continued Wigan looked even more bereft of ideas and Swindon urged on by the crowd created several good opportunities. Ritchie blazed over from 10 yards and then on 76 minutes Ritchie’s 35 yard shot was deflected by Benson and into the Wigan net with Al Habsi wrong footed. Benson was standing in an offside position but the goal was only what Swindon had deserved.
Wigan had rarely threatened the home team’s goal throughout and it was Swindon who had shown the greater desire to progress into the fourth round. If Wigan are still in the Premier League next season it will probably be the best for everyone if we don’t enter the FA Cup.