Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bigi break

Newcastle Utd 3 - 0 Wigan

After four straight league defeats a brace from Demba Ba and a third goal from Master T stopped the rot - though arguably less convincingly than the scoreline would suggest and not without further injury concerns, the season's two best performers Ba and Davide Santon both limping off.

Our midweek trip to Stoke might have had a depressing conclusion, but for the most part the display was far better than in recent weeks, so it was little surprise that the Silver Fox's starting line-up for the visit of the Latics saw just one change - an attacking one, with Sylvain Marveaux in for the suspended Perchinho.

Mr T had a long-range pot shot soon after kick-off, but it was Roberto Martinez's compact, neat side who impressed in the early stages. The game's crucial incident knocked them out of their stride on 12 minutes, though. A swift and incisive move involving all-action midfielder Vurnon Anita saw Ba thread a pass through to Papiss Cisse, who was bundled off the ball untidily by Maynor Figueroa. Having rightly ruled it a penalty, referee Mike Jones had little option but to send the Honduran defender for a very early bath, and Ba converted coolly with a minimal run-up.

Better was to follow when defender Santon showed his ability in the opposing half, cutting inside and unleashing a venomous drive that Ali Al-Habsi could only flap onto the foot of the predatory Ba. His tenth league goal of the season takes him joint top of the scoring charts.

Further good news arrived two minutes later, it seemed, with Martinez withdrawing in-form Jordi Gomez (scorer of an impressive hat-trick from midfield against Reading) for James McArthur. The latter, though, steadied the rocking ship, and we were frustrated in our attempts to push on for a rout that would have given a significant boost to our goal difference, restricted to a couple more long-rangers from Mr T.

Wigan were actually playing the smarter football, even with ten men, and while Jean Beausejour, whose crosses were so dangerous against the Royals, was kept quiet in his deeper role, on the other flank energetic Dutchman Ronnie Stam was proving a persistent nuisance. However, their challenge should have been made all the harder by the dismissal of captain and former Toon man Gary Caldwell, leniently excused a second yellow card for a lunge on Cisse.

He was astutely replaced at half-time, as was Mr T (tight hamstring, apparently). The latter's replacement Master T was to have a significant impact, but for much of the second half little seemed to have changed. Wigan remained dogged without the ball and tidy with it, Arouna Kone pulling Sideshow Bob and Mike Williamson around (despite creating no chances of note), while Stam continued to steam down the right with unnerving regularity.

Wild thrashes into the stands from Ba and Cisse aside, our best openings came on the two occasions that Marveaux was apparently possessed with the spirit of the absent HBA. On the first occasion a darting dribble ended with a shot prodded too close to Al-Habsi; on the second a longer, mazier run resulted in a pass to an onrushing Master T, whose blast was dealt with poorly by Al-Habsi only for Cisse to attempt a ludicrous backheel when a simple lay-off to the unmarked Ba would have been a far more sensible option.

The clinching goal, when it arrived, came from a most unlikely source. Master T touched the ball to his left before walloping a splendid left-foot shot into the top corner of Al-Habsi's net. A fine way for the teenager to register his first for the club.

Thereafter Wigan finally looked like a beaten side, and Fergie - on for the injured Santon - had the measure of Stam, the Dutchman at last pressed back towards his own goal. Cisse should really have added to the scoreline but was guilty of snatching at opportunities or characteristically straying offside.

When Little Big Lad entered the fray, it was a surprise to see Spidermag making way - at that stage, with the score at 3-0, I'd have thought it would make more sense to bring off Ba to protect our main goalscoring threat. Let's hope that decision isn't something the Silver Fox lives to regret - his exit five minutes from time evened up the numbers.

A must-win game that we did win, then, and by a healthy margin - but it came at a cost, and much sterner tests lie ahead.

A Wigan fan's perspective: Jesus Was A Wiganer

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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1 Comments:

Blogger Harry Yack said...

Ahh, broadly similar to my own thoughts! I seem to be the only Wigan fan in the world that sees it as an obvious pen, though. Haven't yet spoke to one person who agreed with me. :)

5:23 p.m.  

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