Cautious Wigan pay the penalty

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Famous American sport’s coach Vince Lombardi once wryly observed, “if winning isn’t everything, then why do they keep score?” These words may come back to haunt the Wigan faithful as the decision to sit back and try and defend the first half lead in the second half played a major role in the loss of two points which may cost Wigan their Premier League status

Wigan went into today’s match at the sunny but windswept DW stadium knowing that their dismal home record of only four wins in 17 home games needed to be improved if their Premier League status was to be extended for another season and with only two home league games left this improvement needed to start today.

Wigan’s manager Roberto Martinez opted to make only one change from the side which capitulated in the second half last week against Sunderland, recalling the now free from suspension Maynor Figueroa at left back with Steve Gohuri dropping to the bench.

Both sides started brightly with N’Zogbia looking particularly sharp and Ben Watson once again controlling the midfield by sitting in front of the back four and distributing the ball effectively.

Early on , one of those killer passes split the Everton central defenders but Rodallega couldn’t take advantage and the chance went missing.

Everton had opted to restore key players Arteta and Cahill to their starting line up but McCarthy and Diame worked hard to nullify their effect.

Up front for Everton, lone forward Victor Anichebe was using his not inconsiderable bulk to try and bully the Latics centre halves but Caldwell and Alcaraz held firm.

Latics although ceeding territory to the Toffees, looked the more likely to score and it was no surprise when they took the lead although the goal owed more to the never say die attitude of N’Zogbia rather than any spectacular team work.

McCarthy fed the ball to the mercurial Frenchman and it appeared that the momentum was lost as Howard forced N’Zogbia away from goal. N’Zogbia wasn’t to be denied however and turned on a virtual sixpence curling the ball past the despairing dive of the Everton keeper.

Last week Wigan’s lead over Sunderland lasted only three minutes and Everton almost had the ideal riposte when within a minute Al Habsi had to tip a fierce shot from Cahill.

Everton continued to press with Wigan adopting the role of the away side, defending deep and looking to attack on the break.

Everton were awarded a just but soft penalty when Osman turned quickly at the edge of the area and N’Zogbia who was already committed to the tackle conceded the spot kick.

Arteta stepped up to take the kick but his effort was superbly saved by the Omani international.

Wigan were forced into an early substitution when the industrious Diame was forced off with what looked like a hip injury with McArthur replacing him in the heart of midfield.

Half time brought rapturous cheers for a Wigan side going in with a well deserved lead and the talk around the stadium at half time was whether we could hang onto the lead .

Wigan started the second half with the apparent instructions to defend deep and allow Everton to have the majority of the possession in the hope that Everton’s threat would be nullified and that the home side may score a second goal on the break.

Wigan were forced into another change when N’Zogbia was forced to limp off replaced by Moses who proceeded to give former Wigan favourite Leighton Baines a torrid time. Twice within a matter of minutes Moses forced Howard into superb saves.

Wigan however were retreating further and further back and at times had ten outfield players defending across the penalty area, this defensive tactic gave the away side further impetus and they secured several corners on the bounce, from the last of these the referee adjudged that Rodallega had handled the ball.

Baines stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake blasting the ball into the roof of the net.

This stimulated Wigan into attacking mode and an overhead kick from Di Santo and a shot into the side netting from Rodallega were close but not good enough to secure the three points.

The final whistle brought applause from the Wigan fans but once again the knowledge that they had played well but been unable to defend a lead means that Wigan remain in the relegation places and with only three games left to play , the chances of staying in the Premier League for a further season are diminishing

Teams and Player ratings

Al Habsi……8.5,

Boyce………7,Caldwell……6, Alcaraz……..6, Figueroa….7,

Cleverley…..7 ,Diame………7, Watson……..8, McCarthy…..7, N’Zogbia……8

Rodallega…6

Subs

Moses…….8

McArthur…7

Di Santo…..7

Subs not used

Kirkland, Gomez, Gohuri, Sammon

Everton

Howard

Hibbert, Jakielka, Distin, Baines

Arteta, Osman, Cahill,Neville, Rodwell

Anichebe

Subs

Coleman, Beckford, Gueye

Subs not used

Mucha, Duffy, Bilyaletdinov, Vellios.

Referee Lee Mason

Attendance 17,051

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