Tottenham 0 Wigan Athletic 1: Return of the giant-killers

Wigan Athletic made up for their slow start to the season with an away performance reminiscent of the famous victories at Anfield and the Emirates of last term, climbing to 12th in the league table in doing so.

Tottenham’s starting XI — and indeed the thousands supporting them at White Hart Lane — appeared to approach the fixture as a foregone conclusion ahead of a series of tricky fixtures. Much will be criticized about their performance, but it won’t tell the whole story. While Villas Boas shifted and tweaked throughout and his players huffed and puffed in the second half, Roberto Martinez’s men knew exactly what their gameplan was and executed it to perfection.

In fact, so dominant were the Latics before Ben Watson’s breakthrough, they should have gone at least two or three up. While Gareth Bale was clearly the best player on the pitch, you got the sense that Spurs are at present just a team of expensively assembled individuals, while Wigan look an organized and well-oiled machine.

The Good: 

Roberto Martinez. The second youngest manager in the league put on a tactical masterclass for the youngest. This is the second 1-0 win in three away fixtures at White Hart Lane, against Spurs teams that have hardly struggled for goals. If you go back a fourth fixture, you get to the horrific 9-1 loss in Roberto’s first season. Where most chairmen would have panicked, Dave Whelan kept faith, and Martinez has repaid it. The team showed today it is already — this early in the season despite losing Victor Moses and having to bed in new signings — capable of the form shown that kept us up last year. Which bodes very well indeed.

The defence. Gary Caldwell was immense, as he was in the final stretch of last season. Ivan Ramis, next to him, had a brilliant match save one foul on the edge of the box that might have proven costly on another day. He looks comfortable in the league and tactical system, a quality signing. Figueroa had to cope with Lennon and Bale and got the job done, albeit with the occasional mistimed challenge. Emmerson Boyce, whose attacking play was non-existent, must receive huge praise for his defensive work as well.

Attacking link-up play. There are some excellent partnerships developing between the attacking trio. First, Maloney set up Kone. Then Kone returned the favour. Di Santo was quiet today but has been on the same wave length in recent fixtures. Latics created the five clearest chances of the match.

The Bad: 

Finishing. Both Kone and Maloney, when through with just the keeper to beat, shot straight at him. It comes down to confidence and composure. Both played very well otherwise, but you get the sense they each need a goal to get things going again. Ben Watson, who had an odd match — at times rusty, others very effective and ultimately scoring the winner — missed another sitter by blasting over.

Player Ratings: 

Ali Al-Habsi: 8.5 — Excellent. Held onto a couple stinging shots that other keepers would have spilled. Dominant in the air.

Ivan Ramis: 8.5 — Cracking performance from the Spaniard. Strong and excellent with his distribution. The way the back three knocks the ball around these days is a joy to watch. Very rarely is a ball hacked away in panic.

Gary Caldwell: 9 — Man of the match. Didn’t put a foot wrong, he was dominant. His passing out of the back, under pressure, was fantastic.

Maynor Figueroa: 7 — Had a tough time with Bale and Lennon at times, but got a very difficult job done. Lucky not to be given a yellow card in the first half, which was fortunate as he received one in the second.

Emmerson Boyce: 7.5 — Passing was at times poor and didn’t get forward, but his primary function was defensive. He had Bale to watch for most of the match, and defended well on set pieces.

Jean Beausejour: 8 — In good form. Got forward on several occasions in the first half with some quality deliveries. Neat in footwork as always, and put a real defensive shift in.

James McCarthy: 7.5 — Usual energetic, neat performance.

Ben Watson: 8 — Got the match winner. Going from Bradford to Spurs within the space of a few days must have been an adjustment, and his passing was a little wayward at times. But he was very frequently in the right place at the right time to make defensive interceptions, and stuck the ball in the back of the net — which no one else managed.

Shaun Maloney: 8 — Top class in the first half, buzzing about and creating. Should have scored his one-on-one opportunity. Faded as the team retreated in the second half.

Franco Di Santo: 7 — Couldn’t get going in this one, though he held the ball up well when required. Substituted with 20 minutes to go.

Arouna Kone: 7 — Another promising performance full of dangerous movement and skill but no goal. They’ll come.

Subs: 

Jordi Gomez: Played a couple delicious flicks that Kone and Maloney might have been quicker to pounce on. Drew a couple fouls that eased the pressure. Overall, did the job he was sent on to do quite well.

Arsenal 1 Wigan Athletic 2: Giant-killers

Any concerns about the bubble being burst were laid to rest in emphatic fashion last night as Latics emerged from a traditionally nightmarish fixture with three points of gold and another famous scalp.

The scoreboard beggared belief after eight minutes of football, during which Franco Di Santo capped off a flowing breakaway and Jordi Gomez stabbed home a Victor Moses cross at the second attempt. Given the club’s dreadful record at the Emirates — no goals scored there since 2007, plenty conceded — this was a sight for sore eyes.

There is much to appreciate about Arsene Wenger, his teams, and his team’s form of late, but there was a dangerous air of arrogance evident in those opening passages of play. When asked about Wigan’s attacking threat a day earlier, the Frenchman err-ed and ahh-ed before mentioning Victor Moses, Emmerson Boyce and Maynor Figueroa. While inadvertently picking out three of Wigan’s top performers on the night, his response implied that he had not watched much of Wigan lately. Figueroa, of course, has been playing as a left-sided centre-back, while Boyce, an excellent defender, has not been a key contributor in attack. And Victor Moses — well, they clearly hadn’t watched enough of his recent play, because he ran rings around them all night.

Whether it was lack of homework or not, when James McCarthy nipped in to initiate a counter-attack on six minutes of play, it was clear Arsenal had committed too many men forward. The midfielder fed Victor Moses, who played Jordi Gomez into space. The Spaniard, back in the team after Shaun Maloney picked up a knee injury in training, threaded the ball into Franco Di Santo’s path, who poked at Arsenal keeper Szechzny, watched the ball balloon over him, then volleyed into the back of the net.

Moments later, with Latics’ first real possession of the match, patient build-up saw Victor Moses superbly spin past Bacary Sagna, drive a low cross into the box towards James McArthur. As with the first goal, the Scotsman’s first effort was blocked, but this time his teammate Gomez was ready to pounce, making it 2-0 after eight minutes of football.

Arsenal were shell-shocked, but quickly regained the initiative, with Tomas Rosicky looking particularly lively. Ali Al-Habsi made a superb flying save from a looping Yossi Benayoun header after sustained pressure. In the 20th minute, Rosicky shed his marker to deliver a beautifully balanced cross onto the on-running Vermaelen’s head. Al-Habsi was paralyzed, but there was little he could do such was the power behind the header.

The next stretch of play was crucial to the match as Arsenal piled on the pressure, urged to shoot on sight by their crowd. First, Van Persie struck a venomous shot straight at Al-Habsi from outside the box. Next, Johan Djorou went a fraction wide with a volleyed effort following a penalty box mixup. The key moment, however, came after James McCarthy — only seconds back on the pitch after receiving treatment for a knock — cheaply gifted Arsenal possession. With Rosicky and Van Persie bearing down on Caldwell and Al-Habsi things looked grim. But the Arsenal men fluffed their lines, not realizing it would be their best chance to equalize for the rest of the evening.

Wigan had a half chance on the stroke of half-time, with Jordi Gomez ballooning a shot from outside the box, but looked relieved to make it through the tunnel with their advantage intact.

The second half was a different beast. Arsenal dominated possession but Wigan defended exceptionally well and created three or four excellent goal-scoring opportunities. Victor Moses, who had already outwitted Bacary Sagna for the second goal, this time out-muscled him, barging into the box only to slam his effort straight at Szechzny. Minutes later, the Nigerian was barreling toward goal following a Maynor Figueroa long-throw, only to rush his shot at the Polish keeper. James McArthur, whose supply of energy and industry is bottomless, broke from his own box to release Moses down the left wing. The winger picked his head up this time, lofting a delightful far-post cross for Jordi Gomez, who mishit with his right boot.

Conor Sammon came on to replace the heroic Franco Di Santo, while Mo Diame relieved Jordi Gomez with about 10 minutes to go. Both subs made excellent contributions, injecting freshness of mind and body, providing relief for their tiring teammates. The big Senegalese midfielder might have added his name to the scoresheet in injury time after skillful dribbling opened up some space at the top of the box, but his left-footed strike failed to trouble Szechzny.

The final whistle predictably started a round of boos at the Emirates, but this was another terrific achievement for the Latics.

The Good:

We have gone from a team that needs 20 chances against weak opposition to score a goal, to a team that only needs one or two against a big team. It’s all down to confidence and a bit of luck. No one knows better than us — having spent most of the season in the relegation zone — that those two go hand-in-hand. It’s a been a pleasure and privilege to watch them come together against the biggest, most talented and most expensively assembled clubs in the land in recent weeks. The commentator assigned to the Manchester United match pointed out that Wigan’s entire starting XI costthe club  less than United’s Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea.

It’s now four wins out of five, including Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United. The 2-1 loss against Chelsea famously involved two offside goals. This is quite simply the best run of results and performances Wigan Athletic has seen at this level.

The defending had been absolutely terrific. Maynor Figueroa played the perfect match yesterday. Caldwell and Alcaraz were outstanding. Boyce and Beausejour plugged the wings. McCarthy and McArthur put in their usual shift. Di Santo works as hard for the team as any striker in the league.

No injuries or suspensions. Arsenal fouled us more than we fouled them.

The Bad:

Ironically — save for the goals — the first half was one of our weaker performances for a while. Understandable, playing away against an in-form Arsenal side. But the passing was at times sloppy, and we rode our luck in the period after Vermaelen’s goal.

Conclusions:

If you’d told me we’d get 6 points from 9 against Chelsea (away), Man United (home) and Arsenal (away) — with each of these clubs under pressure to get results for the title or a Champions League place — I wouldn’t have known how to respond. All the frustration from good performances earlier in the season that went without reward has been channeled into these characters wearing Wigan shirts. Their focus, determination, and talent is a delight to watch. Hard to imagine a prouder moment as a Latics supporter.

That said, we’re not quite there yet. The league table looks rosy, with Wolves pretty much already down and Blackburn six points behind, an inferior goal difference, and Chelsea and Spurs away in two of their last four matches. QPR also have a very difficult run-in against Chelsea, Spurs, Stoke and Man City — but like us, have produced results against the big teams that they have struggled to obtain against weaker opposition. Bolton may escape, with six winnable games to play, though they will have to improve dramatically. We face in-form sides Fulham and Newcastle, before a big one away at Blackburn, and Wolves on the final day of the season. Based of our rivals’ fixtures, three more points should do it. But there are surely a few more twists and turns to come. Lets hope Roberto’s men can maintain their superb form for another unforgettable end-of-season flourish.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 9 — Made one amazing save from a Benayoun header, and several more important blocks throughout the game. Missed a punch for one scary moment in the second half, but the man is in inspirational form. He gives his the defense and team confidence from the back.

Antolin Alcaraz: 9 — Classy, strong defender in the best form of his Wigan career.

Gary Caldwell: 9 — Did what no one else in the league has been able to do this season — kept Van Persie quiet. The Dutch striker, in jaw-dropping form of late, was limited to a couple shots from outside the box.

Maynor Figueroa: 9.5 — Hard to single out a man of the match in such a team performance, but if there is one it was him. Five or six breathtaking sliding challenges, all perfectly timed, to deny Arsenal goal-scoring opportunities. Excellent in possession, and cool as you like bringing the ball out of defense. Even managed to contribute what might have been an assist for a third goal from a long throw-in. We’re docking 0.5 points for the dangerous challenge on Theo Walcott in the second half that might have led to a red card, if a foul had been given.

Emmerson Boyce: 9 — Fantastic defensive performance. In truth, the wing-backs ended up playing more as traditional full-backs in this match. Boycey’s tackling and work-rate was great.

Jean Beausejour: 9 — Looked less comfortable in possession than usual, but did some amazing defending, keeping Theo Walcott under control most of the match. Showed he can defend.

James McArthur: 8.5 — A bulldog in midfield. Was everywhere.

James McCarthy: 8.5 — Started the attack that led to the first goal. Made one mistake that could have proven costly, but put his usual hard-working but shift in, with a touch of class in his passing here or there.

Jordi Gomez: 9 — Many were concerned when Shaun Maloney’s absence was confirmed, but the Spaniard responded by setting up Di Santo for the first goal, and scoring the second himself. Squandered a real chance in the second half, but made a crucial contribution.

Victor Moses: 9 — Ran rings around Arsenal, as he had done to Manchester United and Chelsea before that. Finishing still needs a bit of work, although his cross for the second goal was great, as was the lofted ball he played Jordi in the second half.

Franco Di Santo: 9 — Very pleased for the Argentine, who finally got the goal his effort and skill deserved. Brilliant target man play, rarely loses the ball. Rodallega is going to have a hard time breaking back into this lineup.

Roberto Martinez: 10 — When things were looking very grim indeed, towards the end of 2011, our manager decided to temporarily scrap his beloved 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 for a wing-back system that can look like a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3 depending on the players on the pitch. It immediately produced improved performances, most of which ended frustratingly in draws. But he stuck to it, brought in a player who truly specializes in that wing-back position, and has enjoyed the amazing improvement since. Roberto said we would beat Manchester United this season, that we would shed that “mental block” against the big teams. He was right.

Subs:

Conor Sammon: 8 — Great sub appearance, running around like a madman but also looking a useful outlet up front.

Mo Diame: 9 — Really enjoyed his 10 minutes on the pitch, skipping and dancing past Arsenal players as though they were training cones. Might have done better with an injury time effort — or might have walked it to the corner flag to ease our nerves! — but he is one hell of a useful substitute to bring on.

Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester United 0: Brilliant Latics finally get their reward

An inspirational Wigan Athletic performance characterized by confidence, style and determination earned the club its first ever win against Manchester United last night. Roberto’s men were thoroughly dominant until taking the lead, and resolute in their defense of it. United were limited to one shot on target and three corners, something I doubt any other club has managed this season.

It is hard to recall a prouder moment. This sort of form has been building for some time now. We deserved points at Stamford Bridge last weekend, and have now suffered from three unfairly disallowed goals in two matches. But there is real belief in this squad, from back to front. Indeed, before the famous wins of late we had outplayed Norwich, West Brom, Aston Villa and Everton without burying them. It is amazing what a bit of confidence does for you — goals are suddenly popping up from all sorts of places, from the center of defense, to super-subs, to the excellent and invigorated Shaun Maloney.

Roberto Martinez’s vision appears to be finally coming together. His team has shed the defensive fragility that cost us in the first half of the season with his three-man centre of defense. The Alcaraz-Caldwell-Figueroa axis gets stronger every match and has wonderful balance. His deployment of Emmerson Boyce as the right wingback — a decision questioned by some of us due to Ronnie Stam’s excellent mid-season form — has allowed him to seamlessly switch to a 4-5-1 when the team needs to re-gain possession or push forward in numbers. Jean Beausejour must go down in history as our best ever January transfer window signing, making a huge contribution in a problem position. Shaun Maloney has injected verve and direct, attacking play in his advanced midfield role.  The squad is strong, with replacements for just about everyone in the squad.

Wigan started this match with clear attacking intent. James McCarthy had a left-footed rocket tipped over the bar by De Gea; the lively Victor Moses zigzagged into the box only to smash his curled effort off Rio Ferdinand’s behind; James McArthur was first to every ball, while Antolin Alcaraz enjoyed a remarkable attacking performance with frequent surging runs. United threatened only twice; first through Chicharito Hernandez, who failed to sneak past Gary Caldwell, and later through Ryan Giggs, whose outside-of-the-boot cross was deflected for a corner by Maynor Figueroa. But the first half was really all Wigan, and pressure finally told when Victor Moses rose to head a Shaun Maloney cross into the back of the net. Celebrations ensued, with Phil Dowd appearing to give the goal, only for the linesman to call the goal back moments later. Latics had been denied a goal once again — the third in less than 90 minutes — by a linesman. This time, Gary Caldwell was adjudged to have impeded David De Gea’s path to the ball. Replays showed the Wigan man did nothing but stand his ground, and was in fact shoved toward De Gea by a United player. Martinez was furious, and Dowd’s reception by the crowd at half-time was not one he’ll have savoured.

Tom Cleverley was brought on in an attempt to regain possession, but Wigan started the second half as they ended the first. Jean Beausejour was busy down the left and his slightly clumsy attempt to get a cross past Johnny Evans while falling over was incorrectly given a corner. With the linesman on the other side of the pitch it was certainly a tough one for the referee — only one or two of the five or six camera angles in slow motion replay made it clear the ball had indeed bundled off Beausejour’s leg. But there was no question about what ensued. Shaun Maloney received a short pass, dummied past Rooney and sensationally curled the ball past De Gea to give his team the lead. This time the flags stayed down, and Latics celebrated.

The rest of the match was largely an exercise in patient, organized defending. That Wigan only picked up one yellow card — Di Santo for dissent after himself being fouled — is truly remarkable. There was no lunging, no diving in. There were tense moments, but the team was organized and never looked like falling apart. United had one or two half-chances, with Danny Wellbeck breaking but forced to shoot from a wide angle, and Nani causing a bit of panic with quick footwork and a low cross. But if anything, Latics had clearer chances to increase their lead than United did to equalise. Conor Sammon, on for Maloney, went on a fantastic run down the left wing and into the box, laying off neatly for Diame, who had an effort blocked before squaring to Moses, whose shot deflected wide. The Nigeria international was a constant threat with his strength and running.

It took five minutes of injury time, but the final whistle went and Wigan supporters from the DW to Jakarta and Boston jumped up and down to the tune of “We-Are-Staying-Up-WE-ARE-STAYING-UP!”

The Good:

Everything from the quality of football played, to the confidence it was played with, the effort and desire. The pride for the shirt. The support.

The Bad:

Nothing except the understandable signs of fatigue after two outstanding performances against the two most successful British teams of recent times.

Refereeing Decisions:

Lets get the facts straight amid media coverage of Fergie’s complaints. There were two controversial decisions each way. We had a goal disallowed incorrectly, and Johnny Evans should have been sent off for a second yellow card offense. They should have had a goal-kick instead of a corner, and did not get a penalty when a driven ball deflected off the sliding Maynor Figueroa’s leg, onto his arm. What would you rather have — 1-0 against 10 men? Or a goal-kick and a penalty?

Not Over Yet:

This was an unforgettable football match for all associated with the club, and we’re all buzzing with pride. But the relegation battle is tight. QPR beat Swansea and remain above us on goal difference. Bolton are two behind but have a game in hand. Blackburn are only three adrift. Save the Carling Cup memories of our first season, Arsenal away is typically a nightmare fixture for us, and could be a wake-up call. Specially with tired legs from last night’s exertions. Newcastle’s form is unbelievable, and Fulham have real quality this season. So there is a long road ahead. McArthur and Martinez himself came out with appropriate “Lets keep our feet on the ground” quotes this morning. Lets hope we can do it. If this level of performance can be sustained for five more matches, it will be an enjoyable month and a half — but it’s a big ask.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 8 — Only had to make one save, but it was an important one from a low Danny Wellbeck shot.

Antolin Alcaraz: 9 — Outstanding in defense, but also got forward to good effect in the first half. Looked as comfortable on that ball as anyone.

Gary Caldwell: 9 — The captain is becoming a fan favorite. Clean sheet against Man United.

Maynor Figueroa: 9 — Fantastic from the Honduran. Took a few knocks. Has really thrived in the left-centre-half role.

Emmerson Boyce: 8 — Didn’t get forward as much as Beausejour, but kept Ashley Young out of the game.

Jean Beausejour: 8.5 — Caused trouble down the left in the first half, defended strongly in the second. Kept Valencia relatively quiet.

James McArthur: 9 — It’s amazing how much ground this fella covers. First to every ball. Sets an example.

James McCarthy: 8.5 — Neat in possession, a good left-footed strike. Pace and power in midfield.

Shaun Maloney: 9 — Brilliant. Troubled United all game with his stepovers and flicks. In the same position, Jordi would pass the ball sideways far too often. Maloney is direct, positive, confident. What a finish.

Victor Moses: 8.5 — Deserved a goal for his hard work. Ran his socks off with good skill, though lacked a cool head with the final shot on occasion.

Franco Di Santo: 8 — His work ethic and target man play are simply fantastic. If only we could all chip in and buy him a goal.

The Twelfth Man: 10 — The supporters are behind the team more than ever, and it shows. From those who have been gathering at the stadium hours early to greet the team as they arrive, to the Washington DC supporters club at Lucky Bar, and my amazing wife (chair of the Figueroa Fan Club) who has to try and watch these matches as her maniacal husband shouts, drools, laughs and cries his way through them. Lets enjoy this moment and keep it up for the remaining five fixtures.

Subs:

Mo Diame: 7 — Brought on for the tiring Franco Di Santo, who had also taken a few knocks, to help regain possession. Took about 10 minutes to get into the game, such was the pace of it. Unlucky to have his shot blocked, did some good tackling.

Conor Sammon: 8 — Great sub appearance by the big man, putting in the miles but also showing some skill on a mazy run that might have ended in a second (or third) goal.

West Brom 1 Wigan Athletic 2: Moses arrives as defensive lions roar

Three points of solid gold were obtained on Saturday as Latics clung on for a second consecutive 2-1 away victory in the Premier League. After the comprehensive home hammering by Arsenal it was clear what needed to happen on the training ground during the week, and the Latics delivered with a courageous, chest-thumping, steel-willed defensive performance.

On any other day, West Brom might’ve scored three or four, amassing 13 corners and 23 goal attempts over the course of 90 minutes. The pressure began early, with Chris Brunt, Shane Long and Jerome Thomas all going close, and Ali Al-Habsi back to his best with an instinctive reflex save. If you haven’t read The Guardian’s excellent profile on Ali, please do so here. Having survived the early onslaught, however, Wigan grew in confidence, gaining possession and making occasional forays into West Brom territory. Victor Moses created some space only to drag a tame shot wide, while David Jones willed his way through two or three defenders but failed to get a shot away. The match was turning, and Latics were the more comfortable side when Gary Caldwell was adjudged to have pulled Peter Odemwingie down outside the box. While most of us watched Chris Brunt and his hammer of a left boot, Steven Reid planted a stunning right-footed curler past Al-Habsi and into the upper left corner.

Wigan were stunned and had to keep their focus to avoid conceding again, but only several minutes later a quick break saw Mohammed Diame in space down the left wing. The man with the longest legs on the pitch intelligently drove a low ball into the box, causing a bit of panic, eventually falling to Victor Moses who beautifully curled it into the top right corner. The coolness and precision that has so far eluded him arrived in all its glory. You could see what it meant to him as he wheeled away in delight.

The feeling at half-time was that West Brom were there for the taking, and Wigan started the second half strongly, with Jordi Gomez moving the ball well in midfield, Conor Sammon putting himself about up front, and Moses electric. It was the latter who won the crucial penalty, spinning inside the area a second too quickly for hero-to-villain Steven Reid, whose outstretched leg tripped the Wigan man. It was a near carbon copy of the winner at Sunderland, as Jordi Gomez calmly tucked away his third goal in four games, and his second from the spot.

What followed was a relentless onslaught and aerial bombardment, with West Brom’s fine wing play resulting in what seemed like a cross a minute. But Latics defense, so maligned for their capitulation against Arsenal, delivered their finest performance of the season, channeling the spirit and solidity of the survival run of last season. Strengthened by the return of Antolin Alcaraz but led by the outstanding pair of Gary Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa, they were nothing short of heroic.

On the break, Victor Moses’ trickery and Conor Sammon’s raw pace were causing problems. On one occasion, the Nigerian international broke from midfield, and having spotted the keeper of his line, attempted an audacious chip from about 25 yards out. Foster would recover, but it was the kind of arrogant attempt that has been lacking from Moses’ play, a truly promising sign from a player for whom the sky is the limit. Minutes later, he would go for glory again, when he might’ve passed to Conor Sammon, who had gotten himself in a good position at the top of the box.

Few Latics fans will have had much of their fingernails left to chew by the time Steven Reid hit the wall with an identically placed free-kick in stoppage time, but Latics resilience and sheer determination in this one, and Moses’ outstanding contribution made this the most gratifying match of the season.

The Good:

Most everything. The defence, including Ali Al-Habsi, and Victor Moses deserve all the praise in the world. Maynor Figueroa edges our man of the match award, for which there were  many candidates, delivering an all heart performance on the left side of the three man defense. In midfield, Jordi Gomez not only took his penalty as if Latics were 4-0 up and in the top half of the table, his passing was also intelligent and effective in the spells during which Latics controlled possession. Conor Sammon worked his socks off as always, but also looked dangerous on the break and should have been given the chance by Victor Moses to finish the game off. A match to inspire pride.

The Bad:

Antolin Alcaraz’s injury. After missing three matches through suspension, reports suggest he may be out until the new year with cracked ribs. He too, was outstanding in defence until his withdrawal, and will be sorely missed in the crucial tough matches ahead. Steve Gohouri looked a bit wobbly in possession when he came on, and will need to be at his best to fill the Paraguayan’s boots.

A Neutral Would Say

Huge defensive effort helped Latics edge this one, West Brom probably deserved a point.

Player Ratings

Al Al-Habsi: 8 —  Made several impressive saves and couldn’t be faulted for the goal.

Antolin Alcaraz: 8 — Very strong performance, and comfortable on the ball. His passing and distribution is the best of the centre-backs.

Gary Caldwell: 8.5 — Outstanding, commanding performance from the captain. Defending crosses suits him better than one on one situations. A bit unlucky to have been punished for giving away the free-kick that led to the goal, but made up for it.

Maynor Figueroa: 9 — He hasn’t had his strongest season, but was at his very best this week on the left side of the back three. Great to see him succeeding in the new formation.

Ronnie Stam: 6.5 — Less present in attack than in previous outings, but worked hard. Jerome Thomas gave him a hard time.

David Jones: 7 — Decent performance, particularly in the first half, with hard work and solid passing.

Mo Diame: 7 — Broke well and supplied a good cross for the first goal. Otherwise, worked hard in midfield without doing anything fancy.

James McCarthy: 7 — Solid, earned a free-kick in a dangerous position with a driving run, of which we’d love to see more.

Jordi Gomez: 7.5 — Passed the ball well, helped Latics retain possession in spells. Earned a silly yellow card for waving an imaginary card at the ref, but was influential in midfield. Latics do lack pace on his side when he plays, particularly when Ronnie Stam is pinned back by opposing wingers, but his contribution was important.

Victor Moses: 8.5 — Scored a brilliant goal, won a penalty, and troubled West Brom all afternoon. Congratulations to him, and may it be the first of many more this season.

Conor Sammon: 7.5 — Worked tirelessly and broke with pace on a couple occasions in the second half. Isn’t doing anything wrong, but still hasn’t really had any chances. What a shame Moses didn’t spot him to put the nail in the coffin on that second half break.

Subs:

Steve Gohouri: 7 — To come on as a defensive replacement in a game this tough was a tough ask. He did look nervous with the ball at his feet, but did enough to keep West Brom out. Latics will need him to be at his best in the next few games (unless Emmerson Boyce takes his place).

James McArthur: 6 — Came on for Ronnie Stam, and struggled a little bit to get into a very fast-paced game.

Franco Di Santo: 7 — Came on for Conor Sammon, exhibited his usual good work ethic, and held the ball up well when he needed to buy the Latics a few seconds of respite. A bit lucky to be on the bench, he has rarely let the team down this season.