Date: 10th February 2008 at 8:41am
Written by: baskerville

There were several surprises for Wigan fans arriving at the stadium of light today.

The first was the pitch which resembled a cross between the JJB pitch and Roker beach.

The others were the Wigan team members with the fitness doubts Melchiot, King, Heskey and Taylor all starting and the rare sights of Olembe and Granqvist on the bench.

Sunderland started the brighter and like last week Latics found themselves scrambling to clear their lines.

The most notable effort from former Cork City player (and Latics target) O’Donovan narrowly going over the bar.

Latics got more into the game and the inspirational Scharner hit a 30 yard fizzer which went just wide of the right hand post.

Whether due to the pitch or because of a tactical decision Latics opted for a mainly long and high ball game punting the to Heskey, by-passing the midfield completely in the hope that Heskey would nod the ball down to King.

This tactic proved totally ineffective Heskey who went down injured as early as the fourth minute looked a shadow of the player he was last season where as King was totally dominated by his former team mate at Gillingham ,Nosworthy.

The first half action ebbed and flowed with neither side asserting any dominance, a good shot from Palacios and a penalty shout from Taylor our best hopes .

The game needed a goal and one wag was heard to say they would be selling tickets for the re-match in Dubai based on this.

When the goal came there was an injustice about its creation.

Bardsley went down under the challenge of Brown and Taylor. From our viewpoint which was better than Mr Dean`s it was a good challenge but the free kick was awarded.

When the ball came over Etuhu strolled away from the pack to head past the “rooted to the spot” Kirkland and Sunderland had a half time lead.

Latics started the second half like they had received a rocket up their collective derrières.

Koumas replaced the unfit Melchiot and immediately stretched the home defence.

Gordon could only parry a shot and in the scramble the ball rolled agonisingly close to the goal line and was cleared to Koumas who rifled a shot against the post.

This was so exciting for your correspondent that he jumped up and promptly fell down the steps!

This was the catalyst for some sustained Latics pressure which included two reflex saves from Gordon from brilliant Koumas crosses and a Heskey header against the bar.

Taylor who was clearly unfit was forced to leave the field after a forceful tackle and was replaced by Olembe who switched to the left wing, Koumas coming into centre midfield and Palacios moving to right back.

This switch seemed to cause a loss in momentum, Palacios` driving force was missed in midfield and Olembe`s performance was awful.

The second goal whilst a shot to be admired should have been closed down before.

Olembe allowed Murphy too much space and he fired a superb shot past the once again stranded Kirkland.

Latics continued to push forward but it wasn`t to be their day.

Bent replaced the limping Heskey but could have replaced the limping King who were both ineffective on the day.

Bent in truth looks to be our only fit forward and as most of our chances are coming from defenders and midfielders it is a cause for concern that our forwards are firing blanks.

Player Ratings

Kirkland?. 5
Should he come or should he stay?
His indecisiveness is a cause for concern.

Not fit and shouldn`t have played.

Brilliant in defence and good going forward.
Didn`t deserve to be on the losing side.

Was left exposed by both Taylor and Olembe but battled hard and put a header just over the bar.

Worked hard, a good overhead kick which Heskey, Bent et al could learn from.

Not fit and lost on the left wing, caused problems for Killer covering and his set pieces were all over hit.

Best midfielder on the pitch. We lost momentum when he went to right back

Not his best day

Invisible man.
When all our creative outlets hinge on him in our defensive formation he cannot afford to have an off day like today

Looks like a championship player at best sop far. Knocked off the ball every time he tried to hold it up and doesn`t look fit.

Injured as early as the fourth minute.
Looks unfit and short on confidence.

No coincidence that all our creative work came through him.
Must be a starter next week although doesn`t look happy and was the only sub not to acknowledge the crowd when warming up when who were chanting his name.

Please release me let me go.

Did nothing but at lease he is fit

Manager Rating

Gambled with four unfit players which backfired, also interesting choices on the bench.

Needs to move away form high ball game which isn`t working

Ref Watch
Mike Dean..6

Did nothing especially wrong.

Ground Watch
The Pitch…3

A game we could and should have won.

Some good individual performances but a poor team performance and a tactical plan of high balls to an out of form forward line which isn`t working

Special mention to the pigeons who refused to stop searching for worms in the sand for the full game