Wigan fans travelled to the Britannia Stadium yesterday bouyed by the performance against United in midweek and hoping for more on the same.
The warning bells began to ring however, when the team news filtered through that Valencia was not on the team or on the bench and that it appeared centre back Scharner would be filling that role with Cho making his first team debut in a five man centre midfield.
The first half was played in an icy cross wind and driving showers and in truth very little quality football was played.
The most notable incidents were a fierce shot from Cho which Sorenson did well to tip over the bar and what appeared to be a good shot for a penalty for a foul on Scharner which Mr probert waved away.
At the othr end Kingson showed his insecurity with high balls flapping at a long throw which thankfully ended in the net without being touched by any.
Latics looked lopsided with four central midfielders in it and too much relience was being placed on N’Zogbia to create something. ‘Zog tried but was stareved of support from his colleagues and too often his final pass went astray.
At the back once again Bramble and Boyce looked an effective partnership agaisnt the physical challenge posed by Beattie and Fuller.
Half time brought a welcome respite from the poor performance offered by both sides but any hopes that the second division would start any better was quickly discounted as the play continued much in the same vein.
Latics had an early chance, when Cattermole failed to control the ball when put through by N’Zogbia and then N’Zogbia himself committed an act of poor play, when he blazed over after brreakign away.
Figueroa then had a chance but his shot was always going wide.
Latics worked hard but struggled to create any following football and this allowed Stoke to push forward.
The openign goal when it came should never have happened. Fuller received the ball on the edge of the Latics penalty area, he seemed to stumble but managed to beat five Latics defenders, before hitting a crisp shot past Kingson.
Latics heads seemed to drop and there was no leadership on the pitch to drive them forward. Stoke buoyed by the goal came forward and former Latics target Etherington crossed towards Beattie. Kingson commited himsaelf but failed to get to the ball and Beattie had an easy header, for his 7th goal since his January transfer from Sheffield United.
Latics, who had replaced Cho prior to the first goal and Brown after the first goal, with Watson and Mido respectively, tried to press forward but there was no one in midfield co-ordianting play and no real chances appeared.
Latics appeared to wave the white flag of surrender,when Bruce opted to use his final substitution to bring on a left back, instead of one of the two attacking wingers on the bench.
Full time brought an end to a performance, which couldn’t be faulted on effort but woefully lacking on any quality play.
The game gave us chance to see what life will be without Valencia and it doesn’t look good.
Bruce needs to buy quality in the summer and get rid of the deadwood.
The talk amongst the cheesed of 1,000 plus Latics fans who made the trip, was not of optimisim for next season but talk of a relegation campaign.
He came and he flapped. awful with high balls and corners and not much bettter with shots
One of the better performers in that at least he tried and the defeat appeared to matter to him.
A good first half but should have done better for the first goal.
Worked hard but was outmatched physcially
Looked totally lost and should have been substituted
Cho Won Hee…6/10
One good shot and never stopped trying. Needs to get used to the pace of the Premeir League
A poor game
Tried hard but should have done better with his chance
A rare talent with the ball but once again his distribution was mainly poor
Was well shackled all afternoon and starved of anything like quality possession
Did nothing when he came on to suggest he is Palacios’ replacement.
Tried hard when he came on looking to push forward.
No right winger, playing a centre defender on the wing and replacing an uninjured left back with a left back when two nil down.
Poor tactics and lack of a motivated team could cost us dearly next season