Date: 2nd December 2007 at 10:28am
Written by: baskerville

Steve Bruce took charge of his first game at the JJB hoping to halt the morale sapping run of eight straight defeats against Sven`s resurgent Manchester City side.

The team news was promising injury victims Kirkland, Melchiot and Heskey all returned in a 4-4-2 formation in what is probably our best 16 with the exception of the suspended Michael Brown.

There was no sign of the underperforming Agahowa , Hall or Olembe with a welcome return for the committed Ryan Taylor.

Latics optimism was quickly dampened when barely thirty seconds into the game Bramble facing his own goal attempted to hook the ball towards the touchline.

Unfortunately he made minimal contact and the unseen Geovanni nipped in took the ball around the Advancing Kirkland and it was one nil.

Questions need to be asked why Bramble was booting it towards touch when Kirkland was facing him.

Did Kirkland tell him to boot it sideways and did Kirkland let him know that Geovanni was behind the unsighted Bramble?

In the past this would have been the catalyst for collective head dropping but it served to spur Latics on typified in my opinion by the commitment of Marcus Bent.

Bent ran all the way back to Bramble to gee him up and then proceeded to give Micah Richards and in particular Isaaksson a torrid time.

Isaaksson appeared to be very uncertain in how to handle back passes and Bent`s athleticism actually blocked one which could have gone in the net. Fortunately for City it went for a throw in

With Heskey looking sharp Wigan pressed forward with both Koumas and the rejuvenated Valencia regularly taking the ball past the full backs and getting the crosses in to an increasingly jittery City defence.

The goal when it came was classy in its execution and simple in its finish.

Koumas jinked in and out shaped to cross with his right foot and then switched onto his left, the defenders had been drawn forward leaving Scharner unmarked to drill a bullet of a header past the diving Isaaksson.

Latics finished the half the stronger side, Landzaat controlling midfield like a baton wielding conductor feeding the flying wingers.

The start of the second half saw a more focussed City resulting in a midfield battle however Latics continued to attack with flair and gusto, City`s passing ,may have been slicker but Latics more than matched them for commitment something that has been lacking in recent weeks.

On the 50 minute the talismanic Heskey who had been struggling for a few minutes was replaced by Ryan Taylor

Latics moved to a 4-4-1-1 formation with Koumas sitting behind Bent and Taylor replacing Koumas on the left wing.

In the past this would have resulted in a backs to the wall defensive display but under the new regieme not a bit of it.

Latics continued to break quickly form the back and one flowing move ended up on the left side of the penalty area with Taylor who fired a goal bound rasping left foot shot superbly turned around by Isaaksson for a corner.

Although Latics had less of the possession they created the best chances with City reduced to shooting form distance without forcing Kirkland into making a save.

Bent who was running tirelessly was clattered from behind by Richards and went down clutching his leg sending shivers down the collective backs of the Latics faithful.

Thankfully after treatment he was able to resume his torture of the City back four.

Rumours abound of Bruce blasting the Latics players for their lack of stamina and fitness in training this week and for the last ten minutes certain players seemed to be running on empty

There were three breaks up field from Valencia, Koumas and Taylor respectively which broke down due to lack of support, Scharner in particular seemed to be struggling.

Just when it looked like we would comfortably hold on for a draw Mike Riley adjudged a tackle from Melchiot to be a two footed off the floor red card.

From where I was sat facing the incident in the East stand it looked the correct decision. After seeing it on television I believe there may be cause for appeal however it closely mirrors Valencia`s last season at Villa and I think we will be without our captain for the next three games.

What was refreshing in the last few minutes was Steve Bruce exhorting his team forward rather than a rearguard action in our own penalty box. This was picked up by the fans who applauded Bruce`s decision.

Indeed we almost snatched a late winner with Scharner dragging himself down the left wing and crossing but Bent couldn`t just make it .

The final whistle brought our long losing run to an end and the Latics faithful left the JJB with the renewed belief that we can get out of the bottom three and continue our Premier League existence.

Bring on Bolton!!!!


We are still in the bottom three but if we play like that we will be in with a shout of safety come the end of the season. The lack of forwards on the bench shows that Bruce realises we don`t have enough strength in that department which hopefully will be addressed in January.

Poor home following in numbers yesterday more than made up for by the volume generated.

Player Ratings

Kirkland 6
? Apart form the goal didn`t have anything really to do. Questions must be asked about his communication with Bramble re the City goal?

Melchiot 7
?An inspirational captain. Maybe unlucky to be sent off but the skill he shows when on the ball and when defending would put most midfielders and forwards to shame. We will miss him over the next three games?

Kilbane 6.5
?Knows he is playing for his place after Bruce stated he needs a left back. Is doing everything asked of him.

Boyce 7
? Would be the first name on my team sheet. Class play who does what he as to in a very understated way?

Bramble 6
? Has been a revelation this season. His lapse for the goal definitely affected his confidence but he battled throughout?

Valencia 7
? sublime skills, wish he played like this every week?

Landzaat 7
? controlled midfield playing sitting in front of the back four. Showed the skills we know he is capable of?

? as with Valencia sublime skills, wish he played like this every week?

Scharner 6.5
? First half was his best this season, but visibly tired in the second. Comedy moment was him running over to take the arm band off Bruce when Melchiot was sent off. Yes Paul it was that obvious?

Bent 8
Chased everything, supported Heskey, gave Richards one of his most difficult tests. Doing everything huis manager could ask of him?.

Heskey 7
? Showed why we have missed him with a hard working performance. Hopefully his hamstring injury isn`t a bad one?

Taylor 7
? Ryan was superb on his return. Playing out of position on the left wing he nearly won the game for us and defended brilliantly?

Manager Rating
Steve Bruce?Picked the team the fans would have wanted thereby showing he has sussed who the unfit not good enough players are within the squad.

His exhortation to press forward when down to ten men kept City form any attempts in the last few minutes. Has certainly given cause for optimism.