Wolves were the better of two error-prone sides as they welcomed Wigan to the Molineux. Jamie O’Hara, David Edwards and Stephen Ward helped Mick McCarthy’s men to a 3-1 victory, with Ben Watson’s penalty rebound the only response from the visitors. With both sides squandering many a chance, it was Wigan ‘keeper Ali Al-Habsi who kept the score looking reasonable, as weak attacks met weaker defences.
A huge game really – both teams have been very poor so far this season and would have seen this encounter as vital. After all, if they couldn’t beat today’s opponents who on earth could they beat? This was true of Wolves and Wigan – Mick McCarthy’s side hadn’t won in eight weeks, and Roberto Martinez’s Latics had lost an unbelievable seven games on the trot. It wasn’t too bold a prediction to suggest that whoever lost this fixture would likely be out of a job in the coming weeks – they’re both under enough pressure as it is.
Of 42 points available to both Wolves and Wigan from the past 7 games, the Black Country side had fared marginally better – picking up a one point compared to the Latics who have absolutely nothing to show for their recent games. A rather pathetic record to boast about though. One bad bit of news for McCarthy was that Steven Fletcher’s calf injury still wasn’t fully healed and he was confined to the bench, but they had pretty much a full bill of health. A 4-4-1-1 formation saw Jamie O’Hara occupy the hole with Kevin Doyle playing ahead of him.
You’d think Roberto Martinez would be used to his side underperforming by now, but there’s something even more worrying about Wigan this season – they haven’t got anyone anywhere near the quality of summer departee Charles N’Zogbia for a start, and their defence is woeful. The Latics have never lost a game at Molineux though, and although they were missing Gary Caldwell who was serving a one match suspension, Mohamed Diame shook off a minor ankle injury to start and they were pretty much full strength. Martinez employed a daring 4-3-3 formation with Franco di Santo spearheading a 3 man attack.
The first chance fell to Wolves and it was David Edwards who capitalised on David Jones’ inability to clear a long ball to take possession, skip past Antolin Alcaraz and fire a shot away that was well saved by Ali Al Habsi.
Stephen Hunt was then honest to a fault as he was clearly fouled by the Wigan ‘keeper as he found a way past him. The winger stayed on his feet though and the attack ultimately came to nothing. No wonder there’s so much diving in the modern game when players aren’t rewarded in any way for being staying on their feet. Wigan were looking ropey.
Victor Moses showed his dribbling ability, turning Stephen Ward before cutting inside and beating Christophe Berra too. His cross came to nothing, but if anyone can plug the creative hole created by N’Zogbia’s departure, it’s Moses.
Edwards had another chance for the hosts, he leapt high to connect with Hunt’s well delivered cross but it looped just wide. Hugo Rodallega then should have done better at the other end as he found himself unmarked in the area. Rather than place it in the corner the Colombian opted instead to punt it with all the ferocity of a lame pigeon and it rolled pathetically through to Wayne Hennessey.
Rodallega then missed an absolute sitter. Franco di Santo aimed a perfect lofted ball over Roger Johnson and straight to the feet of the striker. He was free of the last defender, no more than 6 yards out but his finish on the lunge went agonisingly wide.
And it proved costly – just 35 seconds later Jamie O’Hara slotted home after Kevin Doyle had flicked it over the head of Maynor Figueroa and crossed low to the midfielder. Great work from Doyle, and a minute long crash course on why Wigan Athletic are most likely going down.
Wigan got themselves a penalty in the 40th minute. There was no way either side was going to keep a clean sheet – it was already turning into a horrible defensive display. Emerson Boyce was allowed to run deep into the Wolves area, and a last ditch attempt to stop him from Stephen Hunt upended the Barbadian and Lee Probert pointed to the spot. Ben Watson stepped up, but his poor penalty was parried by Hennessey. Unfortunately for the Welshman however, it went straight back out to Watson who was able to remedy his useless spotkick by putting it away.
That was it for the first half – two nervous wrecks doing battle and waiting for the other side to slip up. They didn’t have to wait too long either, neither side can defend, but they’re not too blessed in the attacking department.
Franco di Santo had the first chance of the second half; he turned Christophe Berra before getting a shot away. The Argentine only seems capable of scoring when there’s a massive deflection though, and although the shot skimmed off a Wolves defender it wasn’t enough to get it on target and it rolled narrowly wide.
More terrible defending from Wigan resulted in Wolves taking the lead. Karl Henry pulled it back to Hunt whose shot was brilliantly saved by Al Habsi; it then fell to O’Hara who prompted an even more spectacular save from the ‘keeper. It was third time lucky though as David Edwards pounced on the rebound to make sure. Whilst all this was happening though the Wigan defence was standing gormlessly and watching the events unfold rather than attempting to get any men on the line or making any challenges, leading to understandable frustration from Al Habsi. Does Roberto Martinez even bother with defensive training? Judging by Wigan’s performances this season you’d have to guess not.
A similarly scrappy goal made it three for Wolves in the 66th minute. Matt Jarvis made a great run down the left, before crossing to O’Hara whose shot was again saved by Ali Al Habsi, but it bounced out to Stephen Ward whose half volley deflected past the Wigan ‘keeper and into the net.
Another world class save from Al Habsi. Christophe Berra connected with O’Hara’s free kick to head goalwards from point blank range. The ‘keeper not only denied Berra, but somehow managed to turn it over the bar – an incredible save. Despite conceding three goals he was arguably the man of the match.
More poor finishing from Wigan – di Santo did well to evade a challenge from Roger Johnson and get a shot away but it was a timid effort and caused Hennessey no problems. Rodallega followed this up with a well struck effort that went some way wide in the end.
A disgraceful display from Antolin Alcaraz as he spat at Christophe Berra, causing an understandably angry response from the Wolves players. Lee Probert hadn’t seen it so there was no immediate punishment for the Paraguayan defender, but you’d hope the FA will take action in the coming days.
Mohamed Diame could have caused a late resurgence in Wigan as he took possession of a deflected di Santo shot but couldn’t get his shot the right side of the side netting.
So that was that, a vital win for Wolves, they won’t care how it came about – they have the three points in the bag. Wigan were poor and I would be very surprised if they survived this season, it’s now 8 losses on the bounce for Roberto Martinez.
Referee: Lee Probert
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-1-1): Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Edwards, Henry, Guedioura (Jarvis, 45), Hunt, O’Hara (Milijas, 83), Doyle
Wigan Athletic (4-3-3): Al Habsi, Boyce, Gohouri, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Jones (McArthur, 78), Watson (Crusat, 65), Diame, Moses, Di Santo, Rodallega (Sammon, 78)
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