The Latics went into the Sunderland game at the DW Stadium last weekend hoping to close the gap on their opponents to just three points, unfortunately the worst performance of the season in the first half by the men in blue led to a dismal day at the office.
A bright opening, well the first five minutes, saw Martinez’s men take the game to Sunderland, and when a Ronnie Stam effort was turned into his own net by midfield man David Vaughan the fans thought a treat was in store. Sunderland simply clicked into gear and dominated the rest of the half.
McCarthy and McArthur struggled with the opposition midfield and couldn’t cope with the energy of Vaughan and new signing N’Diaye. Sunderland were level on 17 minutes, Stam slipped in possession facing his own goal and let in Adam Johnson, Boyce mad a rash challenge to retrieve the situation and gave a free kick away 22 yards out. The ball was hit, the Latics wall jumped, McCarthy with his arm up, the ball struck, referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Craig Gardner to send Al Habsi the wrong way, 1-1.
It was all Sunderland and it came as no surprise when they took the lead three minutes later, Johnson swung over a cross from the left, Fletcher rose between Caldwell, Boyce and Figueroa to head goalwards from six yards, Ali Habsi blocked but Fletcher reacted quickest to hook the ball home, 1-2
With the end of the half approaching Sunderland were awarded a free kick on their right, the ball was knocked into the Latics box, Caldwell slipped and the ball bounced over his head, a poor clearance fell at the feet of Fletcher 18 yards out and he slotted home a class finish, 1-3
Martinez threw on Espinoza at half-time for Ronnie Stam and adopted a more adventurous game plan, the Honduras international was full of running, energy and directness on his Premier League debut, he looks to be a great addition to the squad.
Sunderland naturally sat back in the second half, inviting the Latics on to them, they crowded the defence and looked to hit on the break, the Latics meanwhile went close with a Shaun Maloney effort which produced an excellent save from Mignolet, whilst Bramble and O’Shea defended very well.
Angelo Henriquez was sent on for the final 20 minutes and he pulled a goal back with 10 minutes of the game remaining, Maloney dinked over a delightful cross to the back post where the Chile international had lost his marker to give himself a free header from which he made no mistake, 2-3
Figueroa went close with a pile driver and we huffed and puffed but Sunderland were in control and could have stretched their lead with a couple of chances on the break late on
Emmerson Boyce went off on 71 minutes with what was reported as a hamstring tweak, just what we need!
A very poor display and a level of performance that needs sorting quickly
Latics – Al-Habsi; Boyce (Henriquez 71), Caldwell, Figueroa, Beausejour, Stam (Espinoza 46), Gomez, McArthur; McCarthy; Maloney; Di Santo (Boselli 77).
Subs not used – Blazquez, Golobart, Jones, McManaman
Sunderland – Mignolet; Gardner, O’Shea, Bramble, Colback; Johnson (McClean 75), Larsson, Vaughan (Elmohamady 90), N’Diaye; Sessegon (Bardsley 84); Fletcher.
Subs not used –Westwood, McFadden, Kilgallon, Wickham