One of the criticisms of this season has been the fact that we have struggled to beat the teams that are going to be around us come the end of the season, but a fairly competent performance made sure that we saw off one of those teams at the DW Stadium yesterday. The win will hopefully give Newcasle a bit of momentum as they head into another crunch game against another team that is sitting below us in the table when West Ham United venture up to St James’ Park for the midweek game.
There was no sign of Andy Carroll despite rumours that he was going to have a late fitness test on his thigh injury, but that gave Alan Pardew the opportunity to play Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands up front together. To be fair, it was a good move and the pair worked well together. Shola looked ‘up’ for this game, and Loverman seemed to understand what he was going to do as they linked up superbly throughout the game.
In fact it was Shola Amebi who could have given us the lead just three minutes into the game when Danny Simpson crossed for an unmarked Shola to head wide from just about four yards out. It didn’t look so bad at the time as I happened to be stading at the other end of the ground, but I’ve seen it on TV since and I have to say that if Andy Carroll was aiming that header we would probably have gone a goal up.
Still, it wasn’t to be and Wigan quickly established a foothold in the game. Indeed they could have opened the scoring twice through Tom Cleverley, but the on-loan midfielder was denied by Steve Harper for the first attempt and by a lack of balance for the second one as he blazed over the bar.
The only goal of the game came on 19 minutes when Joey Barton took advantage of the Wigan defence, in particular Steve Gohouri, dallying on the ball. He stole the ball and volleyed a shot at goal that the Wigan ‘keeper spilled straight to Peter Lovenkrands. Lovenkrands stabbed the ball towards to goal but it struck the foot of the post and rebounded for an onrushing Shola Ameobi to smash into an empty net and send the Toon Army into raptures.
Newcastle continued to have the upper hand, in fact they had the upper hand for most of the match, despite not really playing that well. Wigan hit the bar through a Gary Caldwell header, but that header was dwarfed by Fabricio Coloccini’s 18-yard header that smacked against the Wigan crossbar, which kind of sums up the game for me. Everything that Newcastle did was just that little bit better than the hosts.
Wigan looked to assert themselves at the start of the second-half, but despite having the bulk of the ball they never really looked like they knew what to do with it. In fact the only thing Steve Harper had to in the second-half was pick up any loose balls that may have made their way through to him, although not a lot got past the excellent Fabricio Coloccini in fairness.
Newcastle had the only two clear cut chances of the half when they struck the crossbar again through Steven Taylor and when Leon Best fired wide after losing control of the ball on a probing run from the half-way line. To be fair, Newcastle could afford to waste these chances. Wigan looked like a side in real trouble yesterday, and without their star-man, former Magpie Charles N’Zogbia, they lacked that spark that can unlock teams.
Honourable mentions must got to our two Argentinians who both had excellent games. Colo was outstanding, and Jonas created problems all day for the Wigan right-back. Joey Barton was decent again and created most of our chances whilst Chiek Tiote had a great game in the middle of the park, and he didn’t pick up a booking either!
Alan Pardew deserves a mention aswell to be fair. I know he attracts a lot of stick from certain elements of our support, and he isn’t my first-choice by any stretch of the imagination, but the decision to bring on Wayne Routledge when he did was a good move that nullified their left-side, which looked to be their most dangerous attacking option. Routledge game them something to worry about, which broke up that Wigan threat.
All in all, as I said earlier, it was no classic, but the result is just what the doctor ordered after two defeats over the festive period.
Howay the lads!
Wigan: Ali Al Habsi, Steve Gohouri, Antolin Alcaraz, Gary Caldwell, Ronnie Stam, Hendry Thomas, Ben Watson, Jordi Gomez, Tom Cleverley, Mohamed Diame, Hugo Rodallega.
Subs: Mike Pollitt, Steve Caldwell, Adrian Piscu Lopez, Maynor Figueroa, James McArthur, Mauro Boselli, Callum McManaman.
Newcastle: Steve Harper, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Joey Barton, Cheik Tiote, Kevin Nolan, Jonas Gutierrez, Peter Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi.
Subs: Tim Krul, Mike Williamson, James Perch, Alan Smith, Wayne Routledge, Leon Best, Nile Ranger.
Attendance: 15,277 (with roughly 4,000 Toon fans). « Pedro is the latest in line for a five-year deal. | Newcastle have proved that they can win without Carroll. »