This was also the last of a long run of Northern away games in league and cup so this correspondent will be packing his shorts and sunglasses for the remaining away trips in the sunny South.
My scouse mate Ted reminded me the stadium announcer at Anfield in the sixties always said before kick off 'the Liverpool team is as printed in the programme' and Cherries now seem to be the model for selection consistency, at least in league games, so it was business as usual with Kermorgant given the nod ahead of Pitman in what looked like it might be a physical encounter. A surprise on the bench with Rantie back and fit and Macdonald in ahead of O'Kane who I assumed was still nursing his leg after that horrific challenge at the end of the Watford game.
Latics had been through a huge January transfer clear out with something like 'ten out' and 'four in' so this made for dangerous opponents with the loan players having a point to prove and a hoped for fresh start in their struggle against relegation. It did not surprise me that Wigan started with purpose and it was only a lack of familiarity with each others game that prevented an opening home goal as the ball zipped dangerously across the Cherries goal with no-one on the end of crosses allied to some wayward (thats why you're going down) type finishing. During this early stage a Latics Korean loanee player tried a spectacular 'Rooney v Man City' overhead kick that flashed over the bar and was almost a candidate for goal of the season. The warning signs were clear this was going to be a difficult game.
Cherries gradually settled and with Arter and Surman dominant the possession ratio moved up and up as from behind the goal we could see the pattern of play swinging like a pendulum from left to right with the Latics two ranks of four in front of the ball working hard to prevent a Cherries breakthrough. As ever it was good to watch but Wigan still looked the more dangerous team and games are of course decided by goals not possession. I implored a more direct approach with maybe a long ball for Wilson to chase or an incisive pass inside the full back to create a cross and an opening. Francis must have heard me as he launched a long ball forward towards Wilson who was just level when the ball left Francis but seconds later Wilson was two yards offside as Kermorgant rose to head the ball on past the last defender. The officials missed this so a lucky break meant Callum was clear through on a one to one and he made the difficult look easy with a firm finish after drawing out the keeper. A real centre forward's goal. 1-0 to the Cherries. Latics looked deflated as Cherries went up a gear in search of a second which arrived soon after. A Latics defender tried a drag back instead of clearing upfield and Kermorgant was able to put his body in the way and gain possession in time to hit a first time shot into the bottom corner for a smart goal. 2-0 Cherries with half time looming. 2-0 half time.
The second half began with another controversial decision. A long ball found Wilson on the right side edge of the area and as his strength, pace and momentum took him into the box the Latics defender tried a Wigan Warriors rugby league tackle and pulled Wilson to the ground. 'No penalty' said the ref who had maybe remembered the offside mistake leading to the first goal?. In any event Cherries now knew the route to goal with Callum Wilson looking like a lethal electric eel. Our goal machine centre forward then showed another side to his game when he was again in on goal but flashed a wild volley over the bar when a shot along the ground would have made it 3-0 and game over. However undeterred, a minute later he was put through again and this time made no mistake, using his head, body and legs to run in strongly on goal before rounding the keeper for a classic finish. 3-0 Cherries and after seeing a rugby league tackle I wondered if cricket might follow leading to a Cherries declaration.
Latics however had other ideas and despite a number of their fans deserting the stands the team continued to play with spirit and made a lively substitution with the introduction of Seyi Ojo, a 17 year old Liverpool loanee who looked dangerous ftom the outset. Then with Cherries going for the jugular and Francis and Daniels upfield, a long ball down the left side exploited the space behind Arter and Surman and a quick unchallenged cross was firmly headed into the Cherries net by another loanee Leon Clarke, the ball deflecting in off the Cherries defender on the line. 3-1 and not in the script.
Game on and with the remaining home crowd finding their voice and drum it was Cherries who found themselves under increasing pressure and hemmed into the area as Latics sensed a chance of turning the game around. The alarm bells were ringing and I thought Cherries midfield looked tired and leggy after their efforts in the first half but Eddie waited before making any changes. It was time for the defence to show its mettle as crosses were blocked and last ditch tackles made. Then another deadly incisive pass inside Daniels left a Latics forward free on the right and a first time cross was almost converted at the near post, only a superb block by (I think) Cook stopping a second Wigan goal.
Eddie at last brought on Macdonald to shore up the middle with the excellent Kermorgant making way. The game now was scrappy with Cherries looking to hold onto the lead in a 'professional' but legal way. The home supporters did not take kindly to what they perceived as gamesmanship but Kermorgant jogging off and then Ritchie meandering off on 82 mins to be replaced by Smith but it was hardly like watching ugly Leeds holding onto a 1-0 lead in the seventies!. Eddie slowed the game down brilliantly and with Pitman on for Pugh on 90 mins the stoppage time passed with no further threat. 3-1 final score and a vital 3 points ahead of the crucial midweek clash with the Derby rams.
Arter was excellent as was Kermorgant and Pugh once again outshone Ritchie on the wing. The defence was stubborn and committed with Boruc steady. However Callum Wilson was a revelation showing the ability to create his own chances and finish with aplomb and he was easily my man of the match.
AFCB: Boruc, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Ritchie, Surman, Arter, Pugh, Kermorgant, Wilson
Subs: Camp, Ward, Fraser, Rantie, McDonald (for Kermogant, 75 mins), Smith (for Ritchie, 82 mins), Pitman (for Pugh, 91 mins)
Jack Parker, Disbury