8th February 1992
Wigan A (h)
Depleted City lose at the death.
Exeter City 0
Wigan Athletic 1 (Griffiths)
Report by Mark Halliwell
THE only surprise at St James Park yesterday was that it took relegation haunted Wigan so long to secure their first away win of the season. They had laid siege to City's goal especially in the second half, but a combination of poor finishing and an inspired show from City keeper Kevin Miller had kept them out. As this drab encounter headed for injury time, it seemed that skipper-for-the-day Miller would earn City a point. But he didn't have a chance with Bryan Griffiths' last minute left foot volley, set up by Gary Worthington's flick on from a cross by Phil Daley to end City's 13-game unbeaten home league run. It was really no surprise that City struggled to get any cohesion going - a look at their injury list told the story with Scott Hiley, Peter Whiston, Steve Moran and Tom Kelly all side-lined. Add suspensions for Scott Daniels and Jon Brown, and it meant re-organisation on a massive scale for Manager Alan Ball. Trialists Alan Tonge and Paul Masefield came in at right back and centre half respec- tively, midfielder Andy Harris came back into midfield for the first time since December and recent signing Ian Thompstone who made his debut at centre half a fortnight ago, replaced Moran in attack. They started off by trading half chances, with Tonge, who can be pleased with his debut performance, setting up Paul Wimbleton on the edge of the box in one of Nigel Adkins few tests of the afternoon. Wigan's first chance fell to Irishman Dave Collins who shot wide after good work by Griffiths and Daley. Then it was City's turn again, Williams firing a 16th minute free kick just in front on Thompstone's near post lunge, the City man, who spent a frustrating afternoon starved of service appealing to a linesman that he had been pushed. New boy Masefield had the jitters, making two mistakes in quick succession, letting in Daley both times, but the Wigan striker couldn't take advantage. City's sweeper system, with Steve Williams playing behind Masefield and the steady Dave Cooper, gave Andy Cook more chance to get forward on the left and City made numerous attempts to use his pace, all to no avail. Frequent breakdowns in communication halted City's progress, typically five minutes from the break when the disappointing Robson ended a promising run with a wayward shot when Thompstone was screaming for the ball. The game's first corner didn't come until right on half time - City immediately won a second but, as was typical of their luck, the half time whistle blew before they could take it. After the break Wigan took over and it was a tide of blue streaming towards Miller's goal time and again. After 52 minutes, Collins put Colin Taylor through with a defence splitting ball but Miller hacked clear. Six minutes later, Taylor was put away by another through ball, this time by Daley, and with Miller scampering back, the Wigan striker would surely have scored had his shot been on target. If that wasn't bad enough, Taylor will have nightmares about the miss three minutes later. Collins danced around two defenders, slipped wide to Taylor, who this time beat Miller but also the post, six minutes later his sad afternoon, ended as he was substituted. City's threats in the second half were rare in the extreme as their midfield, which badly missed Williams' influence, and attack became non-existent. It seemed that Wigan were fated not almighty scramble in the box when to score saw them with five men in City's six yard area -none of whom were capable of side-footing the ball in. Cornishman Miller had played a captain's innings, but Griffiths intervened to ensure justice was done, although referee Jim Rushton found six minutes of injury time from somewhere to prolong their agony.
Miller. Tonge. Cook. Williams. Masefield. Cooper. Marshall. Wimbleton. Thompstone. Harris. Robson
Subs: Chapman (Robson 70), Sprod.
Adkins; Parkinson, Tankard, Johnson, Patterson, Langley, Jones, Collins, Daley, Taylor (Worthington 67), Griffiths; Sub: Skipper
Referee; Jim Rushton (Stoke-on-Trent)
Bookings: Jones, Johnson (Wigan).