A Jordi Gomez equaliser kept Wigan in the FA Cup as they struggled to overcome a well organised and hard-working League One outfit Bournemouth. The Spanish midfielder followed up his missed penalty to score from the rebound and secure a replay on the South Coast. Euan O’Kane’s superb strike had given the Cherries the lead and the hope of an upset on 41 minutes.
Roberto Martinez has decided that the FA Cup is an opportunity to rest his key players and give the fringe and young players the opportunity to show their worth. The manager made nine changes from the side beaten by Manchester United with new signing Roger Espinoza and loanee Angelo Henriquez on the bench.
Many of Wigan’s first choice players were looking jaded after a hectic Christmas period and in the cold light of day it is surely the right decision to rest them in the FA Cup.
Martinez is also keen to see which players are ready to make the step up to the Premier League, but unfortunately on this performance only Henriquez and central defender Roman Golobart caught the eye with accomplished displays.
Stalwarts Emmerson Boyce and Maynor Figueroa were once again good value but many of the fringe players did not excel.
Wigan’s below par performance however should not take anything away from the efforts of the Cherries who fully deserved their draw. The League One side had gone into the game in confident mood and unbeaten in 17 games following the return of talisman Eddie Howe as manager. They were both competitive and creative and on another day could have gone away with a famous victory.
In the first half both sides had cancelled each other out until O’Kanes’ strike on 41 minutes. The travelling army of 2,500 Bournemouth fans must have been hoping that this would be the decisive goal but Martinez introduced on-loan Manchester United striker Henriquez at half time and Wigan looked much sharper in the second half.
Both Henriquez and Figueroa hit the cross-bar as Wigan went in search of the equaliser.
It came on 70 minutes when Gomez followed up his missed penalty to score with the rebound. Wigan had been awarded the penalty when Simon Francis fouled Figueroa inside the six-yard box.
Wigan were now in the ascendancy and it looked as though they would go onto win the game but Bournemouth stood firm and were not to be denied a replay.
Bournemouth are now slight favourites to win the replay as they will have home advantage and Latics are likely to once again field a reserve team. For a club like Wigan Athletic the FA Cup is no longer a priority. For the footballing traditionalists this may be a sad state of affairs but the realists know that maintaining our Premier League status has to be our top priority.