The Giant Killers

Subtitle


All time greatest F A cup giant killings


Number 40



Wigan Athletic 1-0 Manchester City


Fifth Round: Monday February 19th 2018


Wigan Athletic Stadium, Wigan


Attendance: 19,242


Scorer: Will Grigg {79}


The UK and EU remained deadlocked over how their messy Brexit would happen, Oxfam were in trouble over the use of prostitutes, Great Britain were securing a solitary gold medal at the PyeongChang winter Olympics, Chadwick Boseman had the title role of superhero, Black Panther, saving the world from nemesis, Killmonger, in the guise of Michael B Jordan and Drake was topping the charts with ‘God’s Plan’.


Wigan Athletic were already a name that made every Manchester City fan’s blood run cold. The two met as Divisional equals in 2013 in what was the Latic’s only appearance in the FA cup final. It was supposed to be a one-sided procession for the Billionaire citizens until a stoppage time Ben Watson header landed Wigan their first ever major honour. It was a bitter sweet season though as Wigan became the first team in history to win the cup and be relegated in the same season.

So, when now Championship Wigan were drawn to travel back to City in the following season’s competition, the sweet smell of revenge was expected. Wigan had already sent two top flight sides packing before their Eastlands quarter final where City were yet again stunned, this time 2-1.

Alas for the Latics, their cup exploits failed to stem their deteriorating League form and by 2015 they were in the third tier. That triggered a wholesale clear out of the remaining Premier League era team as Wigan now became a yo yo club, promoted back to the Championship at the first attempt, only to go straight back down again in 2017. This existence also triggered a revolving door of managers with Paul Cook taking charge, having just guided Portsmouth to the fourth tier League title.


Such was the flux in the Wigan side that only three players remained from the team that won promotion to the Championship two years earlier, the exotically named Max Power, who shared his named with a magazine, along with David Perkins and Michael Jacobs. Northern Ireland International Will Grigg was signed to try and score the goals to keep them in the division but in his first season it didn’t work out for him. However, his goals in their subsequent promotion campaign earned him cult status at the Athletic Stadium with a fan chant of ‘Will Grigg’s on fire, your defence is terrified.’ While it was the Wigan fans who coined this chant, it was his National team’s fans who turned it into a Europe wide phenomenon at the 2016 European Championships, despite Grigg being an unused squad member, which triggered the wry press conference response from Northern Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill “He must be on fire, cause he’s the only player we haven’t put out!” Such was the fame the song attracted that Grigg was invited on a German chat show and asked to be a pundit for German TV at the Euro final.


Nathan Byrne arrived from Spurs without having been able to break into the first team at White Hart Lane while Ryan Colclough’s arrival towards the end of the season was unable to prevent relegation.

Amid the comings and goings of the summer, Paul Cook began to add his own look to the side. Chey Dunkley, Gavin Massey and journeyman, Gary Roberts all arrived along with a trio of Premier League loanees. Keeper, Cristian Walton was sent out by Brighton to gain experience but both he and Leicester’s Callum Elder arrived, having yet to turn out for their parent clubs. The third, Jay Fulton had turned out over a dozen times for his parent club Swansea.


Cook also inherited two players with limited top flight experience in ex Fulham defender, Dan Burn and attacking midfielder, Nick Powell who once came on as a substitute for Manchester United in a Champions League game.

Cook’s team roared out of the League One blocks to try and reclaim their Championship place with maximum points from their opening three games. Just two defeats in their first thirteen games took them top of the division by October and Will Grigg really was on fire, a hat-trick in a 7-0 win at Oxford securing a fifth straight victory before Christmas.


The Latics had by then put paid to League Two Crawley Town in the first round of the cup, Lee Evans’ screamer securing victory after the visitors had taken the lead. National League [fifth tier] Fylde should have been dead and buried in round two long before Wigan gifted them a replay with a last gasp penalty. Back on home soil it was an even tougher tie for the Latics as they trailed with ten minutes remaining before the irrepressible Grigg delivered two key goals to book a third-round tie at Premier League Bournemouth.

With Eddie Howe’s side battling against relegation, he still felt he had enough depth in his squad to make eight changes against the now unbeaten in eleven games League One Leaders. It was a ploy that looked to have backfired badly when Grigg maintained his great cup scoring run, controlling the ball unchallenged inside the six-yard box before lashing it into the Bournemouth net after just four minutes. It got better on the half hour when Nick Powell’s free kick clipped off Emerson Hyndman and looped high over Artur Boruc, the Cherrie’s custodian, into the net.


Bournemouth piled on the pressure in the second half, especially after Lys Mousset got them back in the game with a well worked goal ten minutes after the restart. From this point forward, the game took a familiar pattern as Bournemouth did most of the attacking but remained vulnerable to Wigan’s rare counter attacks. Late in the game, one of these attacks saw Ivan Toney clean through before appearing to be felled in the penalty area, to the disgust of the Wigan bench when the referee waved play on. The decision appeared to prove costly when Steve Cook saved the Premier League side in the second minute of stoppage time. Bournemouth even had time to strike the post a minute later, leading both managers to feel that ultimately the draw was a fair result.

The most disappointing aspect of the replay for Wigan was that only just over 4,000 spectators bothered to turn up to watch as the home side made an experienced, if much changed Bournemouth side look second best. Ryan Colclough pulled the strings as the Latics took a deserved early lead through Ryan Morsey.


Bye bye Bournemouth/PA


The tie remained on a knife edge until deep into the second half when Max Power crossed for substitute, Dan Burn to crash the ball home off the bar from close range. Any hope of a Bournemouth revival this time was crushed three minutes later by Callum Elder’s header. Most of the few Bournemouth fans who braved the journey on a miserable night, both weather and Football wise, didn’t stick around to endure the final ten minutes. Nor did West Ham manager, David Moyes, who’s equally struggling Premier League side would be next to visit the Athletic Stadium in round four.

Despite sitting eleventh in the top flight and on the back of five unbeaten Premier League games, the Hammers also had several key players out through injury, while Moyes also made the customary six changes to his side to give his, more than capable squad men a run. They failed badly as Wigan, now fourteen games without defeat, completely outplayed them throughout.


Nathan Byrne’s seventh minute cross was perfect to torment England goalkeeper, Joe Hart as it came to Will Grigg who buried his header from a couple of yards out. Cheyenne Dunkley thought he’d made it two when he latched on to Grigg’s flick on from a Max Power free kick shortly after but he was correctly ruled offside.

West Ham rarely threatened in the first half but any chance of a reaction from them in the second period was hampered just four minutes in when Arthur Masuku rashly spat at Max Power, leaving the referee little choice but to dismiss him.


The Latics deserved a second goal to kill the tie off, though it came in slightly harsh circumstances when Reece Burke was unlucky to be on the wrong end of a handball decision in the penalty area Grigg made no mistake from the penalty spot to secure his place as competition top scorer and seal West Ham’s fate. At the final whistle it was the Hammers who drew a breath of relief that they left with only a two-goal defeat.

A buoyant Grigg told the media, after the game, “From start to finish we were the best side….We don’t mind who we get next. Obviously, it would be nice to play one of the big boys but we’ll play anyone.”


Will Grigg's on fire. West Ham are snuffed out

Grigg’s wish was the FA’s command as Manchester City were the big boy tasked to stand between Wigan and a quarter final birth.

Manager, Pep Guardiola was arguably the best in the business, having previously won the Champions League as both player and manager with Barcelona before guiding both they and Bayern Munich to world club titles. Now he was aiming to be the first manager in English Football to complete the grand slam of all three domestic trophies and the Champions League in the same season. Few were betting against them as his star-studded billionaire line-up were running away with the Premier League title race, were safely through to the League cup final and were poised to book their place in the last eight of Europe’s premier competition.


The weight of the task facing Wigan was summed up in that their visitors had lost just twice the forty fixtures they’d played in all competitions, just once in the League and the other in what effectively had been a Champions League dead rubber.

The City side taking the field was awesome in it’s credentials with World cup winner, David Silva, Champions League winners, Claudio Bravo and Danillo, and two survivors from City’s last League title four seasons earlier, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho. Only French Under 21 International, Aymeric Laporte had yet to be capped by his country. Only three of the thirteen Premier League sides City had visited so far this season had managed to avoid defeat.


It was a surprise then to find the purple clad glacticos a little off their game in the first half as they laboured to break a resolute Wigan defence down. Christian Walton was kept largely well protected and remained relatively comfortable barring a smart save from Aguero just before the interval. At the other end, Wigan saw few sights of Bravo’s goal with Will Grigg going closest when firing into the side netting.

The main talking point of the first half came right on the whistle when Fabian Delph’s poorly timed challenge on Max Power delivered a straight red card, much to the fury of Guardiola and his City players after it appeared the referee was going to issue a yellow card before being pressured by the Wigan players. The heated arguments between the two managers and their benches continued down the tunnel at half time with some City staff having to be restrained.


The ten men dominated the second half but remained unable to turn any of their half chances into serious goal scoring opportunities, despite Wigan being forced deeper and deeper into defence.

There were fifteen minutes remaining when Kyle Walker inexplicably allowed a comfortable through ball to roll past him. An equally lethargic John Stones was caught on the back foot by his England team mate, giving Will Grigg a head start in on goal. Despite the attentions of Walker and Stones, he kept his composure to slot the ball past the out-rushing Bravo.

Once again Will Grigg was on fire, as the competition’s top scorer with seven goals, though his celebration singled him out as the coolest man in the stadium amid his ecstatic team mates.

Not surprisingly, City threw everything at Christian Walton’s goal in the fifteen minutes that followed but still failed to create that ‘how did they not score’ moment as the clock ticked down to the final whistle. When that whistle came, fans poured onto the pitch to celebrate with a hint of irony when the stadium PA played Wonderwall by those most famous of Manchester City fans, Oasis. However, there were some disappointing scenes too as City’s David Silva was involved in a brief altercation with a fan on the field while a number of City fans tore out hoardings, which they attempted to throw onto the pitch before being restrained.


Even the best team in England can't stop the goal machine, Grigg. 

For City the Grand Slam dream was over, though their next game brought them their first trophy of the season when they secured the League Cup while the Latics prepared for a quarter final with their fourth Premier League opponent of the cup run, Southampton.

While the Latics played four unbeaten League games that kept them in the promotion places, their opponents were in a terrible mess. Third bottom of the Premier League, the Saints failed to win any of their four League games in the build up to the trip north and dismissed their manager, Mauricio Pellegrino just days before the game. Former cup winning goal scorer, Mark Hughes was appointed as new boss just twenty-four hours before the tie.


On a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon with snow threatening, Wigan started the game potentially as slight favourites. It hadn’t been lost on many that the two sides could be meeting as equals in the Championship next season and the travelling Saints had plenty to worry about as Wigan enjoyed the better of the first half, forcing several corners and carving out several half chances.

Southampton heeded the warnings and were a much better side in the second half, eventually breaking the deadlock midway through the half. Latic’s keeper Christian Walton kept the game alive with a penalty save that gave the League One promotion chasers hope of forcing extra time right up to the final moments, when a breakaway second goal settled Southampton’s jitters and took them to Wembley.

For Wigan, and the on fire Will Grigg, there was always the hope that revenge could be taken in the Championship next season. Their promotion chase remained to be won.


Wigan: 1:Christian Walton, 2:Nathan Byrne, 22:Cheyenne Dunkley, 33:Dan Burn,  3:Callum Elder {Replaced by  27:Ryan Colclough-77},  6:Max Power, 4:David Perkins, 25:Nick Powell {Replaced by 28:Ryan Fulton-27}, 18:Gary Roberts {Replaced by 17:Michael Jacobs-55}, 9:Will Grigg: Manager:Paul Cook


Manchester City: 1:Claudio Bravo, 3:Danilo, 5:John Stones, 14:Aymeric Laporte, 18:Fabian Delph {Sent off 45+2}, 8:Ilkay Gundogan, 25:Fernandinho, 25:David Silva {Replaced by 17:Kevin De Bruyne-65}, 20:Bernardo Silva, 21:Sergio Aguero, 19:Leroy Sane {Replaced by 2:Kyle Walker-half time}: Manager:Pep Guardiola


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