Wigan Athletic are a club that have a special relationship with the FA Cup. Since their historic win over Manchester City in 2013, the Latics have reached the semi-finals and now the quarter-finals this season. For a side that have been yo-yoing between League One and the Championship in recent seasons, their cup form has been an impressive constant. During this campaign they knocked out three Premier League teams, so let’s take a closer look at their run in the historic competition.
1st Round – Wigan 2-1 Crawley Town
Considering how far they got, it is perhaps surprising how close Wigan came to getting knocked out in the first round. Their opponents Crawley took the lead in the 20th minute of this game through Jordan Roberts, whose volley threatened to knock the League One side out of the cup. It took just nine minutes for Paul Cook’s to equalise however, and it came courtesy of an acrobatic Ivan Toney effort. A 71st minute winner came from Lee Evans, whose weak foot strike from 35-yards out sent Wigan through to the next round. It was a deserved win for the Latics, who dominated the possession and controlled the game, managing it well to grind out a result.
2nd Round – Fylde 1-1 Wigan/Wigan 3-2 Fylde
If conceding early to Crawley was a hairy moment for Wigan, needing a replay against Conference side Fylde was cutting it even closer. Will Grigg put the Latics ahead in the first leg just before half time, and it looked as if it should end in an easy win for the visitors. A rash challenge in the box from Nathan Byrne allowed Fylde to equaliser late on however and it ended in a 1-1 draw at Mill Farm.
At the DW the Latics went ahead through Toney, before allowing an equaliser and then conceding a shock goal to go behind as Daniel Rowe came back to haunt Paul Cook’s men. It took two late goals from the club’s cult hero Will Grigg to send Wigan through and avoid an embarrassing exit. Fylde played exceptionally well and in truth were unlucky not to cause an upset.
3rd Round – Bournemouth 2-2 Wigan/Wigan 3-0 Bournemouth
After such narrow wins in the two previous rounds, a clash with Premier League side Bournemouth looked as if it could be a step too far for the League One side, especially given that they were drawn away from home. When it came to it however Wigan were unflinching in their determination and found themselves 0-2 up after 29 minutes thanks to Grigg and an Emerson Hyndman own goal. It wasn’t destined to be that easy however as Lys Mousset grabbed one back for the Cherries just after half time. Eventually it was Steve Cook who caused the heartbreak for the Latics, equalising in added time to force a replay.
It was at home that Cook’s men were really able to express themselves however and the replay turned into a rout, with Wigan utterly dominating Bournemouth. A seventh minute goal from Egyptian international Sam Morsy gave the home side a lead to defend, and they added two more late on through defenders Dan Burn and Callum Elder. It was a highly impressive performance against a top-flight side that has often been praised for its attractive style of play.
4th Round – Wigan 2-0 West Ham
While the emphatic win over Bournemouth was hugely impressive, Wigan’s next round tie against West Ham presented a slightly easier challenge. The Hammers were in poor form when they faced the League One side, who earned their win through a brace from Will Grigg. The striker’s first came after just seven minutes and he added a second half penalty to seal the win. Arthur Masuaku’s red card only added insult to injury for the Irons, who put up little resistance against an in-form Wigan side.
5th Round – Wigan 1-0 Manchester City
The most impressive victory of Wigan’s run, and ultimately their last, came against Premier League champions elect Manchester City. A repeat of the 2013 final, it seemed even less likely that the Latics would come out on top in this game given how insanely impressive City have been this season. Paul Cook had other ideas however and set his team up perfectly to grind out a win. Despite registering just 17% possession and having just two shots on target, Wigan came out on top thanks to a Will Grigg goal in the 79th minute. City were off colour on the night, and Fabian Delph’s red card helped the Latics capitalise, but this was an historic victory.
Quarter Final – Wigan 0-2 Southampton
The final game of Wigan’s FA Cup run came in one of the first against Premier League opposition that they were almost considered the favourites. The League One side’s run in this prestigious competition had given them huge confidence heading into this game and they played the style of play that has endeared many a neutral to Wigan Athletic. Expansive and possession-based football allowed the Latics to dominate much of the game, but Southampton’s quality eventually shone through and they were able to end Wigan’s cup run with goals from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Cedric Soares.
Whatever makes Wigan Athletic such a great FA Cup team will perhaps remain a mystery, but it is clear that the club have a love affair with the competition that brings out the best in their players and fans. For a League One team, reaching the quarter-finals is a huge achievement, but the manner in which the Latics managed it makes their run even more memorable.
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