Latics fade as Birmingham win
DW Stadium , Wigan
Latics entered today`s game seeking the first back to back victories of the season. They departed with that aim still left unachieved but with worrying questions about the inability to kill teams off and an even more worrying lack of fight when in adversity, although the loss of keeper Kirkland with injury part way through the first half didn`t help
Following last weeks competent if uninspiring win over Sunderland it was no surprise that Martinez opted to keep faith with the same starting line up , the only change being the replacement of Cho on the bench by Kapo.
Latics started playing full of vim and vigour and should have been one nil up within two minutes. N`Zogbia once again head and shoulders above all other Wigan players cut in from the right and found Scharner. The big (now blond) Austrian managed to get around Joe Hart in the Birmingham goal but was stumbling as he did so and hit the shot with his left foot which went narrowly wide.
Latics dominated the early stages but all too often play was halted by an over officious and quite frankly erratic referring display from Mr Probert who allowed some fierce challenges from Birmingham players ( and at least two blatant handballs) go unpunished and was very whistle happy against Wigan.
It wasn`t a dirty game however although a clash of heads between Johnson and Rodallega sparked a furious reaction from the away players but only Hugo collected a yellow card.
The midfield battle proved crucial with Ferguson and Bowyer facing up to Diame and a strangely subdued Thomas in a battle the away side would eventually win.
Diame lost nothing tint he battle and a couple of good runs resulted in shots which went close to the goal.
Kirkland who has a long standing back problem, seemed to be in no trouble when he jogged forward in his penalty area to pick up a ball but as he went to pick it up he slowed dramatically. He immediately threw the ball out and after receiving treatment went off to be replaced by the veteran Pollitt.
Latics continued to press forward and when the first goal came, it was no surprise that it was scored by N` Zogbia. The diminutive Frenchman whose skill and creativity is crucial to Wigan`s future in the Premier League cut inside from the right wing and curled the ball past the flailing Joe Hart..
Latics had more chances mostly as a result of good work by N`Zogbia but failed to convert them into goals with Scharner and Rodallega the main culprits.
Half time came with Latics looking comfortably in control but the nagging doubt remained that Birmingham had shown enough to suggest that one goal might not be enough.
In a game of two halves so it proved with Birmingham tearing into Wigan with former Wigan target Benitez and Jerome causing problems for the beleaguered Wigan defence.
The goal when it came was as farcical as the award of the free kick which caused it. Thomas was harshly penalised for a foul and with ten men behind the ball and the free kick some 30 yards out it seemed that Wigan`s goal should not have been under any threat. However Sebastian Larsson had other ideas and curled a ball into the far corner which left Pollitt unmoved.
This was the first goal that Wigan had conceded since their nine one defeat at Spurs and if this was a test of character then the home side failed miserably. The next thirty minutes was spineless with no pattern to the Wigan play and it was no surprise that Benitez got around the final defender and shot towards goal with Pollitt advancing out, the ball hit Pollitt`s legs and bobbled into the goal and Birmingham had the lead their second half display deserved.
Still Latics didn`t regroup and when Larsson took another free kick once again Wigan failed to deal with it the ball going into the net with Pollitt again static.
The introduction of Gomez some twenty five minutes after he had first stripped off did at last spark some life into a moribund Wigan performance and Wigan had a couple of good chances which fell to Rodallega and Scharner. Scotland was unlucky not to win a penalty when in a head lock when a cross came over but Mr Probert true to form missed the incident.
Wigan were awarded a free kick in the 89th minute which Gomez took to score his first goal for the club. It was however too little too late and the result was a deserved victory for the away side that their character and determination just about deserved.
What today`s game did showed today that Martinez needs to strengthen in several areas most notably a back up keeper, a right winger, a centre half and two strikers with an on the pitch leader if they are to gain any sort of consistency this season..