Tonight’s game at the newly re-named St James Park so two team matched in terms of both league position and injury status go head to head in an attempt to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone. For the home side there was a desire to recapture the form that sat them qualify for Europe last season, whilst Roberto Martinez patched up merry men were seeking to avoid their annual relegation battle.
Wigan made one change to the side which performed so well against Manchester City last week, with the welcome return of the captain Gary Caldwell, last week’s man of the match Adrian Lopez the man to drop back onto the bench. Midfield dynamo David Jones retained his place having recovered from a knock last week.
Wigan started brightly and a plethora of possession earned a couple of corners but they failed to take advantage the best chance a good shot from Di Santo which Krul did well to tipa round the post.
The game changed when a through ball to Cisse saw him go shoulder to shoulder with only Al Habsi to beat. The Senegalese went down and Mike Jones had no hesitation in awarding the penalty and sending Figueroa off for a clumsy challenge and Ba scored the penalty despite a good attempt by Al Habsi to save the shot.
Newcastle were buoyed by the goal and Wigan looked disorganised with the home side pouring through unchallenged, Santon fired a powerful shot which Al Habsi could only palm out straight to Ba who had an easy finish.
Martinez opted to change the team taking off Gomez and replacing him with McArthur but the play for the rest of the first half was ragged and disjointed with no one without the honourable exception of Di Santo deserving any credit
Wigan’s problems went from bad to worse when Caldwell picked up a yellow for a clumsy from behind tackle which means he would join Figueroa on the sidelines for the critical game against QPR at the weekend.
Half time brought to a close a half with little constructive paly from the away side after the first five minutes against a poor Newcastle side who mustn’t have been able to beleive their luck and the ease with which they had controlled the game.
Martinez made a prudent switch at half time replacing Caldwell who appeared to be on a seriously short fuse witht he more urbane Lopez no doubt with a view of getting his starting back three for Saturday playing together.
Wigan started the second half positively with Stam firing across a couple of good crosses and a goal mouth scramble saw Krul intercept a ball with Kone waiting to pounce.
Newcastle came back and Wigan stood off Marveaux waltzed through but shot weakly straight at Ali.
Stam looked dangerous on the right wing but no one was in the middle to finsih of the chances and Marveaux was allowed again to break straight through the midfield and defence unchallenged but his shot was palmed away by Al Habsi with Cisse’s back flick unable to find the net.
Wigan’s presusre came to nought and a wonder strike from Bigirimana killed the game stone dead. Wigan lacked leadership on the pitch never more so evident when a Wigan free kick ten yards from the Newcastle penalty area was passed back to Al Habsi to hoots of derision from the home fans.
WIgan brought on McManaman for Di Santo thus giving the young Liverpool striker ten minutes more than he enjoyed against Manchester City but it was never going to be anything more than a run out.
The final whistle brought to an end a game which was seriously affected by the sending off but whislt WIgan can claim to have more than matched Newcastle in terms of possession their lack of leadership and attempts on goal is a cause for concern.
Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell (c), Figueroa, Stam, Beausejour, McCarthy, McArthur, Gomez, Kone, Di Santo.
McArthur for Gomez, Lopez for Caldwell, McManaman for Di Santo
Man of the Match
Di Santo, tried hard.
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