Newcastle v Wigan
St. James' Park
Vital Wigan's match reporter, baskerville, tells it as it was yesterday at St. James'
Wigan fans travelled to St James Park yesterday with rising optimism that we could gain our first league point at Newcastle against a team that hadn`t scored at home since February.
This optimism was dented before the kick off when word went around the faithful that Valencia was out for six weeks thereby robbing us of the width on the right, Brown replacing him
This concern proved valid, Latics playing straight through the centre where Butt and Geremi dealt with everything we could offer.
Indeed on several occasions quick throws from Kirkland to Melchiot left the Dutchman looking for someone to pass to as there was no one on the right side of the pitch at all Brown having drifted inside as he did all afternoon.
Newcastle looked sharp on the ball, with slick passing and good running into space they had our back four under pressure from the off.
However the much maligned and ridiculed former favourite Bramble and Granqvist coped with everything thrown at them and Melchiot and Kilbane proved admirable support.
Newcastle did breakthrough on several occasions, the woodwork proving our saviour on one occasion, the linesman`s flag on two other (both correct decisions) and some absolutely world class saves by Kirkland on other occasions.
The watching McClaren could not fail to be impressed with Chris' command of his area.
Latics rarely threatened, the disappearance of Landzaat after 30 mins robbed us of our main creative midfielder and we were restricted to two chances only in the first half a stunning free kick from Koumas and a Sibierski effort.
Tellingly in the first half Kilbane was correctly booked for a lunging tackle.
The second half started in controversial fashion.
Those who have been to barcode land will tell you that you need binoculars in the away end to identify players and Kilbane`s header which resulted in his second yellow looked very harsh from up there but I`m sure the TV captured the incident .
Wigan down to ten men quickly re-organised, Sibs going off to a hero's salute from the Geordies and Boyce coming on at left back.
From then on it was a rearguard action Heskey up front on his own chasing anything punted forward and the rest chasing every Newcastle player trying to close them down.
When they did get through Kirkland proved an admirable barrier to prevent them scoring.
Koumas was then substituted on the hour bringing on Bent and robbing us of our only creative outlet, Heskey dropped back to the left wing spot.
However immediately after this Scharner went down in a heavy tackle and spent the last 30mins a virtual passenger limping around and having his knee sprayed at every break in play.
The second half seemed to drag on forever as our defending got more and more desperate.
There were two long hold ups for injuries to Newcastle players both involving Heskey and both totally innocent.
The first Heskey and a Newcastle midfielder jumped for the ball and the Geordie's head hit the turf with a sickening thud that you could hear in the away end, Steve Bennett quickly turning him on his side and summoning the trainer ( one of the few things he got right all afternoon).
The second when the keeper punched a ball when Heskey jumped for it, his head met Heskey`s` head and he went down very heavily.
This added to the tension and just when we thought we would hang on for a point our defensive display deserved a Bramble clearance was intercepted in midfield fed to Martins who crossed for Owen to beat the defence and head home.
Where as we didn`t deserve to win or even score a nil nil would have been justification for our hard work and team spirit.
Thanks to all the players who came down towards the Wigan end at the close of the match to applaud the fans, after that display it would have been easy to be wrapped up in their own sense of injustice and go straight down the tunnel but they didn`t and it was appreciated by the half full away end.
Steve Bennett 5
Not his finest performance