Wigan played out a third consecutive no score draw at the Riverside stadium today, against a Boro side, who looked good when passing the ball around in midfield but which created very little against a taciturn Wigan defence.
Steve Bruce made four changes from the starting line up agaisnt Fulham, Boyce replacing the injured Scharner and Watson Kapo and Zaki in for Valencia,Mido and Rodellaga.
Bruce had given a big vote of confidence in Kapo during the week and it was hoped that this would have a positive effect on the enigmatic Frenchman, who was partnered up front with Zaki who was looking for his first goal from open play since early October.
The game started in much the same vein as the Fulham game, with Wigan trying to put high balls through for Zaki and Kapo to chase but these were easily dealt with by Wheater and Huth.
For Boro, Arca and Downing were constant threats for a Boro side, who played a lovely passing game but produced very few clear cut chances.
Once again Bramble, Figueroa and the returning Boyce were magnificent in defence.
Lee Cattermole on his return to the Riverside, earned the ire of the Boro team and fans, when his fair but hard tackle on Digard resulted in the Frenchman being stretchered off.
What was disappointing was in the latter stages of the first half the Boro players resorted to diving in an apparent attempt to get Lee sent off.
Football wise there were only two chances of note in the first half to go with six bookings.
For Wigan, a well placed free kick from Wigan’s best attacking foil N’Zogbia, was pushed away for a corner by Jones, whereas at the other end Kirkland saved well from Downing.
Wigan had a shout for a penalty when Bramble appeared to be tripped in the penalty area ,when going for a header from a throw in from Figueroa but Mr Dean was well placed and waved play on.
The second half was an improvement, both in terms of football quality and discipline. Latics started to try and utilise the pace of N’Zogbia more and the little Frenchman responded with some tantilising runs which troubled the big Boro defenders.
Up front, Zaki and Kapo failed to gel and it was no surprise that Kapo was replaced by the effervescent Rodallega, whose presence immeadiately made an impact stretching the Boro defence and providing quality balls for the other Wigan players.
Zaki who had toiled manfully upfront, largley unsupported was replaced by the surprise returnee Antoine Sibierski, who hadn’t kicked a ball in anger for 6 weeks. Whilst Sibs obviously lacked match fitness, he showed what a clever player he is, laying off some defence splitting passes which N’Zogbia and Rodallega couldn’t convert.
The best chance of the second half fell to the Columbian, who lobbed both Jones and unfortunately,the bar.
The best chances for Boro in the second half, fell to Alves and Alliediare but just as it seemed a goal was potentially imminent, a last minute tackle and header from Bramble and Boyce respectively saved the day.
The final whistle brought a chorus of boos from the home fans and it must be a cause for concern to Steve Bruce, that we are creating so little going forward and the fact that we have only taken 4 points out of the last 18 and have not scored in open play for some 540 minutes.
Once again Bruce was indebted to a tremendous defensive display , which will need to be in evidence next week at Chelsea.
Didn’t have much to do but what he did have to do he did well.
Mario was given a torrid time by Downing in the first half, rercovered well after half time.
Another tremendous performance from the Honduran
A tremendous performance from the returning Bermudan
He’s here, he’s there , he’s every flipping where.
Looked sharp on the ball but saw too little of it. Wigan’s only creative outlet
A fine defensive performance but created very little going forward.
As per Lee Cattermole
Rana nd ran and ran but was giving hardly any quality ball to work with. Largely unsupported up front.
Still hasn’t shown anything of the player Steve Bruce talks about
Played out of position on the right wing
Made a difference as soon as he came on. Should be starting every week IMO
Showed his class with some neat lay offs but woefully short on match fitness and appeared shattered after ten minutes
Gambled on the inclusion of Kapo up front instead of Rodalleg and the defensive Watson on the wing instead of the mercurial Koumas.
Neither decision came off.
We need to start scoring again soon