Wigan Athletic secured an eighth season in the Premier League with a deserved victory and in the process relegated crisis club Blackburn Rovers.
When Rovers Indian owners took over in 2010 they did not appreciate that the club could be relegated but the reality of relegation to the Championship must be all too real this morning.
Antolin Alcaraz headed Wigan’s winner from a Jean Beausejour corner in the 87th minute, but it was only what Wigan deserved as they had wasted a succession of chances to finish off their opponents. In the first half Franco Di Santo had twice gone close and Paul Robinson saved well from Moses before he squandered a gift of a back-post header from Di Santo’s superb deep cross.
In the second half Moses once again missed a couple of good opportunities and Shaun Maloney headed over the bar when he rose too early to meet a cross by Moses.
Blackburn had a penalty appeal denied in the second half, when Emmerson Boyce clipped Junior Hoilett’s heel, and they troubled Ali Al-Habsi in the Wigan goal with a series of high balls into the box but the away team were always the more likely to score and in the process relegate Rovers.
In the strange surroundings of a hostile home crowd chanting for the removal of the Indian owners Venkys and manager Steve Kean, Wigan had to maintain their concentration and focus on the crucial task in hand. The prospect of a mass pitch invasion from the protesters was always a possibility and one Rovers fan did get on the pitch and in a rather futile gesture throw his season ticket towards the beleaguered Kean, but the ticket only ended up near Martinez.
Even the bizarre sight of a chicken dressed in Rovers colours entering the pitch in Ali Al Habsi’s goalmouth could not distract them from achieving this historic result. Al Habsi, of course saved the chicken, not much gets past the Wigan keeper!
Wigan completed the season winning six of their last eight matches, beating Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle in the process. Some of Wigan’s play during this run has been a joy to watch and more in keeping with a top four club than a team fighting against relegation.
Huge credit should go out to Manager Roberto Martinez who has once again preserved their Premier League status while trimming 10% from the wage bill.
Some Wigan fans had been critical of the manager during the early part of the season, but the majority stayed supportive and their faith in him has been vindicated with a historic eighth season in the top flight.
There will be big celebrations at the DW stadium for Wigan’s final game against already relegated Wolves next Sunday. As there should be, as it is a remarkable achievement for a small club with such limited resources to stay at this level for eight seasons.