Date: 26th January 2008 at 8:32pm
Written by:

baskerville reports from the JJB stadium on the 4th round FA cup tie between Latics and Chelsea:

Prior to the game today Latics legend Tommy Gore was introduced to the crowd no doubt hoping to evoke the spirit of 1980 when the fourth division Latics beat second division Chelsea on a cold Monday night at Stamford Bridge.

It wasn`t to be as the home side failed to produce any creative spark and precious few chances until Sibs` well taken goal in the 87th minute.

Steve Bruce replaced the departed Landzaat with the returning Taylor no doubt in the hope of shoring up the midfield and stifling the Chelsea attack.

In reality this ploy had little effect with no cohesion from the midfield and a lack of quality ball being supplied to Bent and Heskey.

Chelsea started the brighter of the two sides with Joe Cole in particular giving the hapless Kilbane a torrid time.

The few chances Latics did produce in the first half were snuffed out by the Chelsea defence and on the occasion when the defence was breached the lack of anticipation by both the front two but notably Bent meant that Cech wasn`t troubled.

Predictably Latics play was focussed on the talents of Valencia but he too often once again turned and passed backwards after beating a man when the ball in to the area might have borne fruit.

Brown was working hard in centre midfield but received little support from Palacios and Taylor who both looked totally off the pace , passing to no one and getting caught in possession on several occasions.

This result in both centre halves kicking the ball up field for the front two to chase by passing midfield totally.

Half time came as a welcome relief from the tedium that had gone before. Chelsea didn`t look troubled and surely we hoped the half time team talk would have galvanised the players on both sides.

However this proved to be false optimism, the game continuing in pretty much the same vein.

The only good football coming sporadically from the away side. The game really needed a goal and when it came it had an air of controversy about it.

Anelka looked suspiciously offside when he received the through ball and buried it in the North Stand goal.

This incensed the Latics players most notably Scharner who was booked for his protests to the assistant.

Wigan huffed and puffed and whilst there was no shortage of effort the central midfielders both lacked that killer pass to create something for the forwards.

Taylor had a torrid time today and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Koumas, shortly after Palacios who had been rightly booked for a pathetic dive was replaced by Sibs.

Koumas` arrival at least gave Wigan some width and this spread the game Latics started to push forward and whereas all they had to show for this pressure was a couple of shots into the South stand from Jason Koumas they were at least beginning to show signs of lifting a moribund game.

Unfortunately Chelsea launched a quick break, catching Kilbane out of position. Anelka passed to Wright Phillips who like Andy Johnson the week before slotted the ball through Kirkland`s legs.

At two nil Latics looked dead and buried with only a Koumas free kick to force Cech into a save.

It was then that Sibs shot on the turn beating Cech all ends up and at two one there was a renewed vigour in the home team.

In the 91st minute a clever move created space for bent on the right, he left rip a powerful shot which bounced off the bar for a dead ball and that was that.

The final whistle brought relief to the suffering fans and no doubt the BBC who will be rueing their decision to televise us instead of Liverpool/Havant

Conclusion

Not a patch on the performance against Everton. I think we will come to regret letting Landzaat go as he had formed a good partnership with Brown.

Lack of goals from Bent and Heskey is worrying. King will be starting on Tuesday as must Edman.

Player Ratings

Kirkland ?6
Some good savces but does seem to concede through his legs too often. Lack of vocals in the area almost cost us another goal though

Melchiot?.7
A good performance against his old club

Scharner?.7
Had his hands full with Anelka but worked hard and got forward when he could.

Bramble?.8
Didn`t put a foot wrong, dealt with the Chelsea attack throughout the game coolly and competently

Kilbane?.5
Was totally outclassed today by Cole. At fault for the second goal and his place must be in doubt with the arrival of Edman.

Valencia?.6
Our most creative player but doesn`t cross the ball as often as he should. Too often tonight he took the soft option of the back pass. Faded after half time.

Brown?.6
Ran himself ragged but with little support from midfield colleagues

Palacios ?.5
Slow got caught in possession, let their midfield dominate and created nothing going forward. Awful dive looking for a free kick

Taylor?.4
A game to forget, did nothing right

Bent?.5
Reactions seemed slow, still hasn`t formed a relationship with Heskey and is rumoured to be moving before Thursday to Rangers. Nearly scored at the end

Heskey?6
Worked hard but didn`t have a shot or a header on goal. Worrying that he has gone so much off the ball.

Sibierski?6
A great goal

Koumas?.6
Tried to create something but was exposed by lack of support in midfield.
Only notable contribution was getting booked again. Amazed he is still at the club and with Bent rumoured to be on the move will no doubt retain his place the bench

Manager Rating
Bruce?5

Picked a defensive formation which is what the Brum fans told us he would do. Lack of creativity in midfield must be a concern.