Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Wigan: A winning start to 2010

James McCarthy grabbed his first league goal for the Latics

James McCarthy grabbed his first league goal for the Latics

With all the postponements and cancellations in the past couple of weeks you’d have been forgiven for thinking the season had ended prematurely, you know, to give people a chance to recover from their New Year hangover. It’s been a full seventeen days since the Latics last played a Premier League match – I wonder if that counts as one of those winter breaks the media have been blathering on about for a while?

If Wolves out-muscled Wigan in their previous encounter, then on balance the (snow?) boot was well and truly on the other foot this afternoon. It didn’t always seem like ending up that way, though: Wanderers looked busy in the first part of the game, and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake went agonisingly close early on when it actually looked easier to score. Latics began to look a bit scrappy at the back and gave the ball away quite a lot, debutant Gary Caldwell having quite a bit of work marshalling his fellow defenders in the second third of the first period.

Wigan slowly edged into the ascendency, however, with Hugo Rodallega coming close on more that one occasion. In fact, it was a mini-miracle the match had remained 0-0 up until the 45 minute mark, with both teams having good opportunities to find the onion bag. But then, with but seconds remaining in the first half and just as fans were setting off for their half-time pies, Latics were handed a chance to get on the scoresheet when a momentary brainfreeze from Richard Stearman saw him tangle clumsily with James McCarthy in the Wigan penalty area.

With the ball innocuously heading out of play, it was a needless challenge compounded by the fact it resulted in a second yellow card, and therefore (for those who aren’t very good at maths) a red, for the Wolves defender. Hugo Rodallega stepped up to take the resulting penalty, but was denied by a decent save from Marcus Hahnemann, and the resulting rebound was somehow missed by a predatory Paul Scharner. Worse, the big Austrian picked up a knock in the scramble which followed the penalty miss.

Paul Scharner limped off injured early in the second half

Paul Scharner limped off injured early in the second half

Scharn played all of two minutes of the second half before his injury became too much to bear and Jordi Gomez replaced him in the centre of midfield. An initially enterprising spell of play for Wolves was snuffed out as Latics looked to hold the ball, a tactic which eventually led to a goal for James McCarthy (60 mins) in his first league start for Wigan.

It was N’Zogbia who effectively made the goal from the right wing in one of his trademark marauding runs which have been so successful of late. That said, McCarthy did well to slot the ball through a forest of bodies to find the Wolverhampton net. 1-0 Wigan.

Just as Latics looked to settle into a position of dominance, they suffered a setback as Hendry Thomas was, quite deservedly, given a second yellow card for a reckless tackle on Irishman Stephen Ward. Some might consider Thomas lucky still to be on the pitch after a two-footed challenge in the first half, but Thomas’ second such tackle was always going to be punished by Howard Webb. However, aside from redressing Wolves’ one-man deficit, the dismissal didn’t change much as N’Zogbia and co. continued to trouble the Wolves defensive line.

Zoggs grabbed a deserved goal for himself on 73 minutes, jinking past two defenders and finding the net off the inside half of Hahnemann’s right hand post to all but finish the game off. From then on it was a case of holding on for Wigan, who even resorted to ‘corner flagging’ as early as the 80th minute, and though Wolves pushed, they couldn’t cause Chris Kirkland much trouble. I only recall him having to make one save of note, diving to his left quite to comfortably repel a Chris Iwelumo header.

One of those days for Wolves, then, but Latics move up three places to thirteenth in the table, just one point behind Sunderland and with a game in hand over the Black Cats, who suffered a 7-2 loss to Chelsea this afternoon.

No Premier League match next Saturday – the FA Cup roadshow is back in town. Or, out of town in this case – Notts County or Forest Green away. Incidentally, should those teams draw on Tuesday, Latics will not play on Saturday as their 3rd Round replay will take priority. Wigan’s next league game comes against a struggling Blackburn Rovers (again) a week on Wednesday in yet another Lancashire derby six-pointer. Next up at home is Everton on 30th January, which could prove a vital month for Wigan in the Prem.

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