Wigan emerged with three vital points by the hair on their chinny chin chins as Arouna Kone netted a somewhat fortunate last gasp winner to make the score 2-1. A Davide Santon equaliser on 70 minutes had swung the game Newcastle’s way after Wigan had largely looked in control, and both managers had signaled their intent with attacking substitutions. Jean Beausejour had scored his first goal for the club since arriving just over a year ago after excellent work from Callum McManaman early in the affair.
The win means three of the bottom five won this weekend, narrowing the gap between them and the middle of the table. Roberto Martinez has frequently spoken of a team higher up in the league becoming embroiled in the relegation battle, and so it seems with Sunderland, Norwich, West Ham — and Newcastle themselves — once again failing to win.
The good feeling had returned to the DW before kick-off thanks to the stunning 3-0 win at Goodison Park a week earlier, and the buzz created by the crowd translated into endeavor on the pitch in a strong and committed first half. Martinez was rewarded after surprising many by keeping his cup XI intact, as the lively McManaman repeatedly beat his man down the right flank and crossed only for the ball to bounce Beausejour’s way to put Wigan up. It was the young winger’s first league start, and despite being involved in a dangerous tackle later in the half, his performance should see him cement his place in the starting line-up come next weekend.
There were worrying signs after Newcastle leveled against the run of play, but lady luck smiled on the Latics as a corner bobbled wildly before bouncing off Kone’s outstretched leg to dramatically settle the contest.
An absolutely crucial and decisive result that breathes fresh hope into Wigan’s annual push for survival, and sends a message to the teams around them. With a second consecutive home tie against beatable opposition, there is a real opportunity to build momentum and make up some ground in the table. It is now four wins in five matches in all competitions and two in three in league play.
Martinez’s gamble paid off. Despite a couple wobbly moments, Joel Robles held his own between the sticks, while Jordi Gomez and McManaman performed well in midfield, and Antolin Alcaraz was once again excellent in defense. These were the four changes made to the side for the success at Everton and they may well have cemented their places in the team for the next few fixtures.
Wigan managed to do what they had thus far failed to do — grind out a result.
The way heads dropped after Santon’s equaliser was a concern. Before James McCarthy’s speculative cross led to the corner that ultimately won them the game, Wigan had not looked like scoring during the period of the match with a 1-1 score line.
Joel Robles: 6 — Looked confident, showed comfort on the ball, but flapped at a couple crosses. Considering the intensity of the occasion, however, this was a strong league debut for the young keeper. It is looking increasingly likely he will be signed permanently in the summer if terms can be agreed upon.
Emmerson Boyce: 7 — Disciplined defensively and occasionally burst forward, though often without support.
Antolin Alcaraz: 9 — Marshaled his defence with the composure, strength and speed that has so sorely been lacking this season.
Paul Scharner: 8 — Some excellent tackles, particularly in the first half. A couple panicky moments in the second but overall defended very well.
Maynor Figueroa: 7.5 — Probably should have blocked Santon’s goal-bound shot, but was otherwise excellent. Strong in his aerial defensive play and played some stunning cross field passes.
James McCarthy: 7.5 — Tireless. Covered a lot of ground, threatened to burst through on a couple occasions.
Jordi Gomez: 7 — Good first half with some good interceptions and slide tackling. Faded in the second.
Jean Beausejour: 7.5 — Also strong in the first half from his more advanced wing position. It was a pleasure to see him score — the goal was reward for a player who started the season poorly but has quietly regained his form.
Callum McManaman: 8 — He fades out of the match for periods of time, but every time he was on the ball he made things happen. His pace and dribbling added a new dimension to Wigan’s attack, and his quick feet and cross created the first goal.
Shaun Maloney: 8 — Full of invention as always, unlucky not to score with a trademark curling effort in the first half and created several opportunities of danger that his teammates were unable to capitalise on.
Arouna Kone: 7 — Worked hard up front as lone striker and got his reward as he prodded home from the right place at the right time. Heavy touch on occasion, but his goal haul for the season has already been an improvement on any other striker in the Martinez era.
James McArthur: 8 — Came on as a defensive replacement for Callum McManaman and played very well, disrupting play and driving forward.
Franco Di Santo: On for the last ten minutes but couldn’t really get going. His presence unsettled the Newcastle defence in the build-up to the winner.