Roberto Martinez took his Wigan Athletic team into the relegation battle with Queen Park Rangers knowing that a victory would lift the team above the opposition and possibly out of the bottom three but that a defeat would increase the pressure upon both him and his charges. Martinez opted to change the side that narrowly lost against high flying Manchester City last Monday, welcoming Emerson Boyce back from injury and promoting Gohuri and Watson off the bench instead of Stam and Crusat respectively, employing in a formation more akin to 4-5-1 than the 3-2-4-1 that he has favoured recently.
Wigan started the brighter and from an early free kick from Gomez following a foul on Moses, Boyce wasted a good chance to open the scoring shooting over from close range.Wigan continued to look to take charge and following a good run from Moses, the cross went across the area butWigan’s lone striker Rodallega was unable to reach the ball.
For Rangers, returning captain Joey Barton was looking to control the game with the Wigan midfield looking to close him down at the earliest opportunity with McCarthy paying him close attention.
The wind played a part in the proceedings and Rangers first shot in anger by Helguson was blown away from goal towards the corner flag for a goal kick.
Wigan’s player of the season last year was Al Habsi in the goal and he showed why again when a Luke Young cross was taken by the wind and a scrambling Ali managed to tip the ball away thus preventing a freak goal for a corner which was cleared by McCarthy, the ball falling to Wright Phillips but his shot was well blocked by Caldwell. Rangers continued to exert pressure and a shot from Campbell went wide.
At the other end Rodallega tried to use the elements firing from long range but former Wigan player Hall blocked the shot. This was quickly followed by another long range shot this time from Moses but the shot didn’t trouble Kenny in the home side’s goal.
The game was end to end with both sides shooting on site and QPR had the next couple of chances with first Wright Phillips and then two by Buzsaky having shots blocked and narrowly going wide respectively.
QPR continued to exert their dominance and were rewarded when a corner was handballed by McCarthy, earning the Wigan midfielder a yellow card and Helguson converted the following penalty despite AL Habsi guessing correctly and Rangers had the lead.
Al Habsi continued to earn his money when a goal bound free kick from the dangerous Buzsaky had to be tipped around the post and Rangers continued to dominate proceedings. For Wigan Rodallega was once again the dangerman but all too often he was caught offside.
Shortly before half time Rangers made their dominance pay when Buzsaky gained reward for all his good work with a superb free kick which came hit the post and went into the net with Al Habsi well beaten.
Half time saw Wigan troop off knowing that a much improved second half performance after the ineffective disjointed first half would be needed to gain anything from this relegation six pointer.
Martinez understandably opted to make a change at half time replace McArthur with Conor Sammon , using the big Irishman as the target man with Rodallega playing off him.
The change seemed to make very little change to game as Wigan struggled to get any positive momentum and Rangers seemed content to keep possession and break down any Wigan play in their own half. In fact it was ten minutes before Wigan got the ball into the opposition penalty area but neither Sammon nor Rodallega could get a shot in and Rangers cleared the ball away. Shortly after Gomez shot from outside the area, the ball going wide of the goal with Kenny again untroubled.
At the other end once again Buzsaky made Al Habsi earn his money when following a comic incident when Gohuri and McCarthy fell over each other his powerful shot had to be tipped over by the Omani international.
Martinez opted to try and inject more pace into the game by replacing Gomez with the diminutive Albert Crusat. Wigan’s substitution bore immediate fruit as a free kick for a foul on Figueroa by Barton was taken by Rodallega who left Kenny with no chance with a twenty five yard shot to bring Wigan back into the game.
Wigan made their third substitution replacing the tiring Boyce with the more attacking Stam as Wigan strove for an equaliser. McCarthy and Watson linked well but the angle was too tight for Sammon’s shot to go in when Moses and Rodallega were better placed..
Wigan seem to have been giving penalties away nearly every week and Caldwell gave another one away when he was perhaps harshly adjudged to have hauled Helguson down to add to McCarthy’s earlier one but this time Helguson’s shot was well saved by Al Habsi . Helguson and Buzsaky continued to pepper theWigan goal with shots as Wigan struggled to break out of their own half.
Following a Wigan attack Rangers broke from their own defence and Wright-Phillips found Tommy Smith and a wonderful shot left Al Habsi with no chance as Rangers increased their lead.
This in effect killed the game and Wigan strove without troubling the Rangers goal in the closing stages. The full time whistle left Wigan languishing at the bottom of the Premier League after sevem league games without a win and with relegation after seven years in the top flight a very distinct possibility, Roberto Martinez will need to produce a miraculous revival to surpass last seasons’ escape if the media and critics are to be proven wrong once again.
Al Habsi, Boyce, Gohuri Caldwell, Figueroa, McCarthy, McArthur, Watson, Gomez, Moses and Rodallega
Sammon for McArthur (45), Crusat for Gomez (60), Stam for Boyce (69)
Subs not used
Pollitt, Thomas, Lopez, DiSanto
Man of the Match
Once again is Ali Al Habsi, without his saves today it could have been a six or seven drubbing
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