Wigan welcomed fellow releagtion candidates Sunderland to an icy DW Stadium seeking to punch a hole in a set of worrying statistics which had seen one win in nine, no clean sheet at home this season and only two home wins out of eleven games form whoich if it continued would surely see the smallest club in the Premier League end its eight year tenure at the top.
Roberto Martinez made two changes to the side , one enforced with Ramis being replaced by Stam with Boyce moving to centre back and one tactical with Gomez replacing Jones in a more forward role.
Wigan started the game with pace and intent,with the tenacious McArthur looking to close down the Sunderland midfield and collectively the team looking to feed Beausejour and Stam out wide. Within five minutes this plan bore fruit,when a lovely little pass from Maloney fed Beausejour, his cross went behind a morass of players but found Stam whose mis hit shot deflected off David Vaughan for what seemed an own goal although the announcer awarded the goal to McArthur.
This shpould have provided the impetus for Wigan to push forwards but they seemd to be content to pass the ball around their own half with no one willing to drive forwards and Di Santo cutting an increasingly isolated figure up front and seemingly in danger of developing hypothermia through lack of involvement.
By the time Wigan had their next attack they were two one down, the first increasing another statistic of having conceeded more penalties than any other Premier League team. Sunderland had attacked with pace and flair and had looked dangerous from set pieces , where as Wigan use these merely to restart play.Sunderland with Larsson to the fore use them to actually try and score goals and following awful defending by Stam, Boyce was forced to check Johnson. From the resultant free kick McCarthy jumped in the wall and Mr Taylor had no hesitation in awarding a penalty to Sunderland ,which Gardner converted with ease.
Within five minutes WIgan were behind, good work by Johnson found Fletcher,whose header was well saved by Al Habsi but the loose ball fell back to Fletcher who converted the chance with glee and Wigan were behind.
There followed twenty five minutes of sheer mediocracy from the home side as passes went astray,with the confidence seemingly ebbing away from the team and the home side getting increasingly restless, too many players took the soft option of passing backwards rather than take the responsibility of going forwards.The crowd’s disquiet was further compounded when pathetic defending allowed Fletcher to play a one two with Gardner,unchallenged by the home side and fire in a third goal past Al Habsi.
The half time whistle brought a chorus of boos for the home side which was a fair reflection on their team’s performance,with only Shaun Maloney emerging with any credit for his first half performance.
The second half saw the introduction of new signing Espinoza instead of the under performing Stam and immeadiately his drive and enthusiasm spread to his team mates asWigan pushed forwards for what seemed virtually the whole half with Maloney once again the main creative outlet. However as so often too many passes were put in between the players rather than going for the jugular and all Wigan had to show for the first twenty five minutes was a shot onto the post and a fine save from Mignolet.
This changed when league debutant Henriquez scored a good header , once again following good work by Maloney and as Wigan pushed forwards in search of an equaliser Mr Taylor waved away claims for a penalty for Handball against Sunderland which looked remarkably similar to the one awarded.
Wigan huffed and puffed but the full time whistle increased Wigan’s woes and left the fans to rue the conservative approach in the first half.
Team Line up and ratings
Al Habsi…..6, couldnt be faulted for the goals but awful kicking once again.
Boyce……6, a steady performance, withdrawn.
Caldwell…..6, tried hard, let down by those in front of him.
Figueroa….6.5 push forwards but lacked support from midfield.
Stam…..5, ok going forwards, terrible defending.
McArthur…..6 kept trying
Gomez…..5, a couple of good free kicks but largely anonymous.
Maloney….9 MOM, Wigan could have done with a few more like Shaun today.
Di Santo…..5, contributed very little
Espinoza for Stam (45), …..8, pace , skill and enthusiasm was a rare beacon in a moribund team performance.
Henriquez for Boyce (71)…..6 scored a good goal and ran around a lot.
Boselli for Di Santo (77)….little influence on proceedings.
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