Date: 4th May 2008 at 10:24am
Written by: baskerville

Latics travelled to Villa today knowing that a point would be good enough to secure a fourth season in the Premier League and that even a defeat would be good enough providing results went the way of Steve Bruce`s men.

Bruce made one enforced change from last weeks starting line up granting a surprise recall for Titus Bramble at centre half with the ever dependable Boyce moving to right back and Taylor remaining on the bench.

Villa started the brighter with Latics playing 4-5-1 when defending with Koumas playing a centre midfield role just in front of Brown and Palacios and Heskey or Bent filling in on the left wing as required.

This formation seemed to create a lot of room for Villa to attack Kilbane with Ashley Young looking particularly sharp although he earned the wrath of the Latics fans by going down twice with apparent head injuries causing play to be halted but on both occasions getting up limping.

Villa in the first twenty minutes played like a side which was scoring goals for fun and Latics struggled to break out of their own half and when they did they found Olaf Mellberg on his final home game for Villa and his back line colleagues comfortably dealt with our forays.

However our back four lost nothing in comparison with Scharner in particular adding to his growing reputation. When our back line was breached Vila found England keeper in imperious form tipping goal scoring opportunities away on no less than four occasions.

As the half went on Latics looked to grow in confidence with Brown his tenacious and committed self as ever and Koumas and Valencia looking to create chances for the front two.

Latics in the first half created very few clear cut chances the best falling to Bent and Palacios who both blazed well wide of Carson`s goal and a goal mouth scramble in which the ball fell to Bent but again he shot wide.

The biggest cheer of the first half was reserved for the news that Robbie Keane had scored for Spurs at Reading which if results stayed that way would secure our future in the Premier League.

Latics started the second half with more attacking vigour, Palacios and Brown looking to feed Koumas and Valencia often form within our own penalty area. Sveen minutes into the second half Koumas fed the ball to Valencia on the right , his shot towards goal hit the defender on the head and slowly looped over the stranded Carson head and into the net , the unthinkable had happened , Latics had taken the lead.

This had the catalyst of opening the game up, Villa attacked constantly buyt found the Latics defence supported by the midfield and Heskey cleared up everything they threw at them. This enabled Latics to break forward more often and if the first Valencia goal was a fluke the second certainly wasn`t..

A goal kick by Kirkland was headed forward by Heskey which found Valencia in an inside left position, he out paced the defence and balsted the ball past the diving Carson and Latics were two up.

Villa pressed forward in a desperate search for a way back intot eh game and this created several more chances for Latics and Valencia`s hat trick was denied by a good save from Carson.

Once again Kirkland showed his worth with two more superb saves.

The full time whistle was greeted by wild jubilation from both the Latics players and the travelling fans who were tremendous in the rvocal support of the team today.

The future is bright and it is Wigan Athletic

Player Ratings

Chris Kirkland…9
His saves prevented Villa from being out of sight by half time.

Emerson Boyce?.8
Mr Dependable, put his head on the line literally, every team needs a player like Emerson.

Kevin Kilbane…7.5
Worked hard and was kept bust by Young.

Titus Bramble…7,5
An error free performance

Paul Scharner?8
Led by example, some superb tackles and headers

Jason Koumas?7
A Jekyll and Hyde character, some sublime passes and some horrible ones like the one form the half way line back towards Kirkland which resulted in a Villa corner.

Michael Brown?8
He was here, he was there, he was every where. Only player booked!!

Wilson Palacios?7.5
Good defensive display

Antonio Valencia?8.5
Stretched the Villa defence time and again and his second goal was sublime

Marcus Bent?6.5
Not Premier League material

Emile Heskey?7.5
Worked hard, no chances on goal but kept the defence busy and defended superbly at set pieces.

Manager Rating
Steve Bruce?10

Turned the team around since December and we now have the nucleus of a Premier League team which can push towards mid table and above.

Needs to buy two strikers in the close season and keep the good players we have.

The Fans?9
Were superb today, chanted and sang all afternoon and have stuck by the team all season once again.