Date: 26th December 2008 at 7:31pm
Written by: Baskerville

Newcastle must be heartily sick of Ryan Taylor. In the four games he has played agaisnt Newcastle, he has scored in every game. The bookies must have stopped taking bets on him scoring today which he dutifully did.

Steve Bruce made one change to the team which beat West Brom, recalling Palacios for the unlucky Brown in midfield.The fit again Boyce had to be content with a place on the bench.

Newcastle, who were awful at St James’ park earlier in the season started brightly and Michael Owen found space on the right and bore down on the goal with only Kirkland to beat, when he seemed just abput to shoot, Scharner took the ball of his toe, saving what would have been a certain goal.

At the other end, once again most of Latic’s attacking place was orchestrated by the man of the moment,Valencia who gave the defence as torrid time. He fired in several crosses but Heskey and Zaki were unable to get on the end of them.

Zaki then turned creator for Valencia but his cheeky back heel went narrowly around the post with Given well beaten.

The goal when it came had an air of predictability about it. A foul just outside the penalty area meant a direct free kick. Taylor stepped up to take it and blasted it into the corner of the net,giving Given no chance of stopping it.

Latics dominated the play, with an extremely hard fought midfield battle between Butt, Guthrie and Palacios and Cattermole none of whom are shrinking violets. The tackles were hard and uncompromising and Cattermole went into the book for a tackle which resulted in Beye being stretchered off.

Palacios received a yellow card for persistent fouling (three!)meaning both our combative midfielders were on a yellow.

At the back Scharner and the much maligned Bramble were in imperious form and Viduka and Owen were unable to get a look in.

Latics dominated the first stanza of the second half with Taylor almost adding to his goal tally and Palacios going on a superb run which forced Given into a fingertip save. Valencia also crossed but neither Heskey or Zaki were quick enough to get on the end of it.

The second goal was testimony to the persistence of Heskey and the referee’s decision to play advantage. Heskey set of on a bullocking run and was fouled in the process by Bassong, Mike Dean played the advantage but Bassong persisted in his tugging and pulling and eventually Hesdkey fell in the area. Mike Dean pointed to the spot and sent Bassong off.
Amr Zaki rasced to the deasdline ball line to pick up the ball and when the dust had settled on the dismissal, blasted the ball into the corner, past the diving Given who had guessed correctly.

This should have been the cue for Latics to shut up shop and control the game, instead they let Newcastle come at them and there were a few close shaves before eventually Kirkland was adjudged to have brought Carrill down in the box and Guthrie who was the best player on the away side, gave Kirkland no chance with an excellently taken penalty.
Latics being Latics, then allowed Newcastle to push forward and in the last three minutes of normal play plus an extra six minutes, they created two really good chances,thankfully they were both fluffed by Duff and Latics hung on for a victory,they should have won comfortably on the balence of play.

Wigan Athletic 4-4-2
Melchiot, Bramble, Scharner, Figueroa,
Valencia, Cattermole, Palacios (Kilbane 90), Taylor(Brown 71),
Heskey (Camara 85), Zaki.
Subs: Pollitt, Koumas, Boyce, De Ridder.

Beye (Taylor 38), Coloccini, Bassong, N’Zogbia, Gutierrez, Butt, Guthrie, Duff,
Owen (Edgar 77), Viduka (Carroll 68).
Subs: Harper, Xisco, Geremi, LuaLua.

Player Ratings

Chris Kirkland…8/10
A couple of good saves and was a tad unfortuante I beleive to conceed a penalty(didnt see it because of the bloke stood up in front of me)

Mario melchiot…8/10
Back to his best todaya nd showed all his skills both in defence and attack

Maynor Figueroa…7/10
WOrked hard and looked good going forwards

Paul Scharner…8.5/10
A tremendous performance and his tackle on Owen in the first half was out of the coaching manual

Titus Bramble…8.5/10
Was barracked by the Newcastle fans but responded in the ebst way possible with another classy performance

Ryan Taylor…7/10
Played out of position but gave his all. A superbly taken free kick

Lee Cattermole…8.5/10
Won the battle of the centre midfielders. Another hard working commited performance

Wilson Palacios…7.5/10
Not playing at the top of his game at present but never stopped trying and almost scored his first goal for the Latics in the second half.

Luis Antonio Valencia…9/10
Brilliant going forwards and not bad at defending. No wonder top clubs are sniffing around him.

Emile Heskey…7.5/10
Worked hard again, his persistance resulted int he second goal

Amr Zaki…7.5/10
Doesn’t look to have hit top form yet but never gave up

Michael Brown…6/10
Not on long enough to have a serious effec ton the game

Kevin Kilbane…6/10
Ditto Michael Browen
Ditto Michael Brown

Manager Rating
Steve Bruce…9/10. has moulded a painfully small squad into a combatitive side currently worthy of its 9th position in the Premier League

Mike Dean…7/10
Should have booked a couple of Newcastle playersd int eh first ha;f and could have given Latics a penalty int he first half as well.

Deserves credit for the advantage played, which resulted in the penalty. Tried to let the game flow all afternoon