Return of the Zog: Charles bagged two on his return to SJP
Latics’ victory over Wolves earlier this month was a fantastic mood-lifter, especially as we’ve been able to dwell on it for a whole two weeks. The latest international break was a great opportunity to digest the opening months of the league season, taking in the lows of August and relative highs of September along with all the usual conjecture and politics that generally surrounds any club at the highest level of English football.
Had we lost out to Wanderers at the beginning of October, the whole atmosphere behind the scenes would have been quite different. As it happened, we were left reminiscing upon an okay start to 2010-11, as save from a couple of poor performances at the very beginning of proceedings we could so easily have been sitting pretty in the top half of the Premier League table. Just about. Whilst Latics aren’t exactly riding the crest of a wave at this time, we can safely claim things are looking a bit rosier than they were just six weeks ago.
There was no time for quiet reflection today, however, with Martinez and co. facing a trip across the Pennines to the hostile St James’ Park, a difficult place to visit at the best of times. The Toon Army reserved a special ironic cheer for Charles Insomnia nee N’Zogbia, whose off-the-field antics haven’t really endeared him to very many in recent times.
How appropriate, then, that Tyne and Wear’s very own fallen son should head past Tim Krul on 22 minutes for his first league goal of the season. Another chorus of boos met the official announcement of his putting the visitors ahead, but things were eerily quiet for some time after.
If they weren’t already, the crowd were well and truly silenced just a minute later as, in a deja vu moment, N’Zogbia once again had the ball nestling in Newcastle’s net in spectacular fashion to double his tally for the afternoon. This would take his tally for the club to nine, precisely the number of goals he bagged in 118 appearances for The Magpies.
Latics played to slow things down from here until the 45 minute mark, but not without incident. Newcastle almost grabbed one back on 40 minutes, but the collective efforts of Alcaraz and Boyce ensured Al Habsi kept a clean sheet for the first half. At the other end, N’Zogbia once again came close to putting his name on the scoresheet, albeit via a defender.
The second half transpired pretty much as expected, with Wigan looking to consolidate and hit the hosts on the break. It worked for twenty-odd minutes up until the point substitute Shola Ameobi headed past Al-Habsi on 72 minutes, making for a potentially nervy closing quarter.
The last fifteen minutes saw Newcastle throw everything they had at the Latics, who failed to threaten much other than a Hugo Rodallega snap shot or two. Just when it looked as if we’d held on for the points, a last-gasp corner saw centre back Fabricio Coloccini pop up at the back post to put away the equaliser with but seconds of stoppage time left to play.
It was a bit of a killer, and just goes to prove how things can change so dramatically in a matter of seconds. Instead of three points, Latics will have to make do with just the one, and considering the situation Wigan were in it’s more a case of two points dropped.
A point away from home, however, is certainly not to be sniffed at, and I’d take our result over Manchester United’s identical scoreline against West Brom at Old Trafford any day. And even though Wigan have once again failed to win two league games on the bounce (just barely), nine points from eight games puts us on course for survival. After that, who knows?
First up, though, we’re back at the DW next Saturday for an encounter with Bolton, who today edged past Stoke City to go two points clear of Wigan and five of the relegation zone. Because that sort of thing really does matter at this stage, no matter what people will tell you.
Image of Charles N’Zogbia courtesy Leoboudv at Wikimedia Commons.