Latics Earn Deserved Draw
1st December 2007 3pm
Steve Bruce took charge of his first game at the JJB hoping to halt the morale sapping run of eight straight defeats against Sven`s resurgent Manchester City side.
The team news was promising injury victims Kirkland, Melchiot and Heskey all returned in a 4-4-2 formation in what is probably our best 16 with the exception of the suspended Michael Brown.
There was no sign of the underperforming Agahowa , Hall or Olembe with a welcome return for the committed Ryan Taylor.
Latics optimism was quickly dampened when barely thirty seconds into the game Bramble facing his own goal attempted to hook the ball towards the touchline.
Unfortunately he made minimal contact and the unseen Geovanni nipped in took the ball around the Advancing Kirkland and it was one nil.
Questions need to be asked why Bramble was booting it towards touch when Kirkland was facing him.
Did Kirkland tell him to boot it sideways and did Kirkland let him know that Geovanni was behind the unsighted Bramble?
In the past this would have been the catalyst for collective head dropping but it served to spur Latics on typified in my opinion by the commitment of Marcus Bent.
Bent ran all the way back to Bramble to gee him up and then proceeded to give Micah Richards and in particular Isaaksson a torrid time.
Isaaksson appeared to be very uncertain in how to handle back passes and Bent`s athleticism actually blocked one which could have gone in the net. Fortunately for City it went for a throw in
With Heskey looking sharp Wigan pressed forward with both Koumas and the rejuvenated Valencia regularly taking the ball past the full backs and getting the crosses in to an increasingly jittery City defence.
The goal when it came was classy in its execution and simple in its finish.
Koumas jinked in and out shaped to cross with his right foot and then switched onto his left, the defenders had been drawn forward leaving Scharner unmarked to drill a bullet of a header past the diving Isaaksson.
Latics finished the half the stronger side, Landzaat controlling midfield like a baton wielding conductor feeding the flying wingers.
The start of the second half saw a more focussed City resulting in a midfield battle however Latics continued to attack with flair and gusto, City`s passing ,may have been slicker but Latics more than matched them for commitment something that has been lacking in recent weeks.
On the 50 minute the talismanic Heskey who had been struggling for a few minutes was replaced by Ryan Taylor
Latics moved to a 4-4-1-1 formation with Koumas sitting behind Bent and Taylor replacing Koumas on the left wing.
In the past this would have resulted in a backs to the wall defensive display but under the new regieme not a bit of it.
Latics continued to break quickly form the back and one flowing move ended up on the left side of the penalty area with Taylor who fired a goal bound rasping left foot shot superbly turned around by Isaaksson for a corner.
Although Latics had less of the possession they created the best chances with City reduced to shooting form distance without forcing Kirkland into making a save.
Bent who was running tirelessly was clattered from behind by Richards and went down clutching his leg sending shivers down the collective backs of the Latics faithful.
Thankfully after treatment he was able to resume his torture of the City back four.
Rumours abound of Bruce blasting the Latics players for their lack of stamina and fitness in training this week and for the last ten minutes certain players seemed to be running on empty
There were three breaks up field from Valencia, Koumas and Taylor respectively which broke down due to lack of support, Scharner in particular seemed to be struggling.
Just when it looked like we would comfortably hold on for a draw Mike Riley adjudged a tackle from Melchiot to be a two footed off the floor red card.
From where I was sat facing the incident in the East stand it looked the correct decision. After seeing it on television I believe there may be cause for appeal however it closely mirrors Valencia`s last season at Villa and I think we will be without our captain for the next three games.
What was refreshing in the last few minutes was Steve Bruce exhorting his team forward rather than a rearguard action in our own penalty box. This was picked up by the fans who applauded Bruce`s decision.
Indeed we almost snatched a late winner with Scharner dragging himself down the left wing and crossing but Bent couldn`t just make it .
The final whistle brought our long losing run to an end and the Latics faithful left the JJB with the renewed belief that we can get out of the bottom three and continue our Premier League existence.
Bring on Bolton!!!!
We are still in the bottom three but if we play like that we will be in with a shout of safety come the end of the season. The lack of forwards on the bench shows that Bruce realises we don`t have enough strength in that department which hopefully will be addressed in January.
Poor home following in numbers yesterday more than made up for by the volume generated.
His exhortation to press forward when down to ten men kept City form any attempts in the last few minutes. Has certainly given cause for optimism.