Wigan's joy at securing three precious points was only slightly dented by the loss of two more bodies. "We were at our weakest," Roberto Martínez said of the squad he fielded against Reading, and now he has almost certainly lost Shaun Maloney and his captain, Iván Ramis, for the visit of Manchester City on Wednesday night.
"We're quite stretched and when you play against the champions you want to be at full strength," said Martínez. "So it's good news to have a very good win, a very good performance and a very good feeling behind you to approach the game on Wednesday."
How different the mood would have been had Ali al-Habsi's 80th-minute howler cost Wigan two of their points, and gifted Reading one. Instead one last romp through the flimsy right-side of the Royals' defence, instigated and then finished by Jordi Gómez to complete his first senior hat-trick, allowed Martínez to reflect on Al Habsi's long-term contribution from a position of strength.
"It's so rare to see Ali in that situation that when it happens it shocks you a little bit," the Wigan manager added. "But he's such an outstanding goalkeeper that moments like this reminds you the amount of times we should thank him after the game. I was just pleased in the way the players reacted, straight away from when we picked the ball from the back of the net the players are really looking forward to try and get a winning goal, and that's a mentality that's going to give you points over the course of the season. You can't be perfect in every game, you're going to make errors, it's just how you react to them and today was a real good example of that."
Gómez, the 27-year-old Catalan who owed his first start since September to Wigan's injury problems, had been booed in the first half, when he was guilty of one of the misses which allowed Reading to pinch a 1-0 lead through Sean Morrison's header. "I'm used to it," he said of the cat-calls. "They are free to say what they want."
He dug deep into his Barcelona education to keep darting, prompting and probing, and was rewarded first when Adam Federici was unable to hold his 57th-minute shot, then when he headed in one of many pinpoint crosses from Jean Beausejour, and finally when Arouna Koné found him unmarked in the box two minutes into stoppage time. "His biggest strength is mental," said Martínez of his fellow Catalan. Strange to think the pair of them spent Sunday in Lancashire while their compatriots were voting at home.
Of course Martínez goes back much further with Wigan and their owner Dave Whelan, reflecting that the rousing victory which allowed him to celebrate his 76th birthday was similar to a 1-1 draw against Fulham on the weekend of his 60th — a Third Division fixture at Springfield Park when Martínez was a Wigan player. "It's incredible to look back to that day, it was exactly the same feeling as today," added Martínez. "With a defeat it would have been a hard day to be in his company."
"I've just been in the dressing room and Jordi Gómez told me: 'I did it for you Mr Chairman on your birthday,'" said Whelan. "I said: 'Thank you very much.'"
Man of the match Jordi Gómez (Wigan Athletic)