Oh what fun it is to see Newcastle win away. Normal service resumed on the road, our 8th away win this season and back to the top of the table after 24 hours off it. March 2013 was our last visit to Wigan where we beaten yet again, that time 2-1 and the match saw John Carver get sent off. That was my fourth visit and I said after the game I would never come back to Wigan. Never would I’ve imagined that 3 ½ years later I would be coming back to watch us play in the Championship on a Wednesday night, the week before Christmas. I’m sure of the 5,000 fans who made the trip tonight I’m probably not the only one who said that.
Rafa named an unchanged side, the first time he’s done so this season. After the performance we put in against Birmingham on Saturday every player deserved to be starting again.
We started off brightly, Wigan couldn’t get anyway near us, we controlled the game but without creating any real chances. It took just over 10 minutes to create our first chance of the game, Darlow rolled the ball out out to Shelvey who ran into their halfwith it before playing a superb pass into the feet of Diame who cut inside and fired a powerful shot with his left foot from the edge of the box, the 41 year old Jussi Jääskeläinen was on hand to tip the ball around the post to give us our first corner of the game. Diame had started just like he did on Saturday.
Nothing really happened for the next 15 or so minutes until Hayden who had already made some excellent tackles in the first half made another one just inside our half. The ball was then picked up by Diame who drove forward with pace at the heart of their defence to the edge of the box, he then played a neat one-two with Hayden collecting the ball back in the box, shrugged off their defender with ease before slotting the ball into the bottom corner – Fantastic run and finish. This was his first league goal of the season and the 13th different scorer in the league for us this season. Diame had accused himself of being a sleep this season before the Hull game, its safe it say he waking up.
After the goal we stepped up a gear and finished the first half strongly. A couple of freekicks from about 25-30 yards from Gayle and Shelvey were both comfortably held from Jääskeläinen. Just before the break we came very close to adding to our lead, a powerful run by Shelvey who then seen his effort parried for a corner, the resulting corner was flicked on by a Wigan player to the back post only for the ball to go through Clark’s legs.
It was a dominant first half performance. Darlow didn’t have a save to make. The only time they had run at the defence was when we give the ball away in our own half. Clark and Lascelles were both guilty of losing possession on a few occasions last night and were sloppy were their passing. A couple of misplaced passes fell to the feet of Will Grigg, however he couldn’t take advantage, good job he doesn’t live up to his song, similar to another certain individual with the same song.
On to the 2nd half, a very dull and forgettable one to say the least. The home side started the stronger of the teams. It took till the hour mark for Wigan to create their first chance of the game, a ball whipped into the front post from a corner was met by Will Grigg who’s glancing header went inches passed the far post. This was yet another front post header from a corner that we failed to deal with this season and very nearly cost us.
We never got going in the 2nd half, we couldn’t get the forward ball into Diame or Gayle’s feet and the wide men were both very quiet. Hayden and Shelvey struggled to get a hold of the ball. Wigan were having more joy in the middle of the park, making more forward runs. For me the turning point was Hayden getting an unnecessary yellow for a late challenge at the end of the first half. You knew he couldn’t afford to mis-time another tackle or he would most likely of seen himself sent off. I felt we could of donewith Colback or Tiote to come off the bench to give us a bit of bite in that 2nd half but unfortunately both of them were not fit to make it.
Wigans best chance of the game came 10 minutes later, a good run down the left from Stephen Warnock who delivered a low ball into the box, this was met by a Wigan player 8 yards out drilled it low, Darlow produced a fine save and parried the shot around the post– it was let off.
Atsu replaced Richie on the 70th Minute, it took him less than 10 minutes to make an impact. A long kick from Darlow was won in the air from Dummet, falling kindly to Goufrran who dribbled down the left towards the edge of the box. He then drilled a low cross and Diame completely missed the ball (I’m sure he saw Atsu in a better position and it was a great dummy really) which fell to the feet of Astu who’s first touch was excellent and then smashed it to the roof of the net, keeper had no chance, 2-0, game over! We saw out the last 10 minutes comfortable as they never threatened.
It was no vintage display by us, it was not pretty to watch but we got the job done and after many abysmal trips to the DW, it felt good to walk away with 3 points. Up until the game today, when Wigan have lost this season, only on 1 occasion has it been by more than 1 goal so teams don’t batter them, they just don’t score goals which was evident from tonight’s game. Even though we were poor in the 2nd half, there was only a couple of nervous moments, we still looked solid for the most parts and this team knows how to win games away from home. With Reading slipping up at Leeds, we now open a 9 point gap, realistically 10 points with a 27 superior goal difference to them. Now looking ahead to Burton, a win there will see us sit top of the table at Christmas.
MOTM – Diame
Their fans – less than 10,000 of them and one stupid drum
Our fans – Good at times in the first half but very flat until the 2ndgoal went in. Our very own rendition of last Christmas ‘I’ll give it to Rafa Benitez’ was sung loudly at the end
MARC COWLEY – Follow Marc on @cowleymarc
TV Goal highlights – click here
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