It was a day to forget for Newcastle United once more at the DW Stadium, but this defeat should leave a bitter taste in the mouths of United fans.
Granted we weren’t at our best and you could see we were tired after our Europa League exploits. You could also see we were missing some influential players, namely Yohan Cabaye, but defeat was still hard to take even after considering all of that.
What sticks in my throat more than anything is the ineptitude of the referee. I’m still struggling to get my head around it in truth and serious questions need asking about giving officials the help they clearly need when you look at the performances of Mark Halsey and Co in this one. Not only did they miss a knee-high, studs up challenge that has curtailed Massadio Haidara’s season and left the young left-back hospitalised, they also missed a clear handball from Maynor Figueroa which led to Arouna Kone’s late winner.
United started off brightly and took control of the game without really threatening the Wigan goal. However the home side came back into the game quickly and had the first chance of the game courtesy of a freekick which Jordi Gomez blazed over the bar.
Much has been made of our impotency from corners, but it was a chance crafted from a Sylvain Marveaux corner which nearly handed United the lead although Joel Robles was on hand to deal with Steven Taylor’s headed effort and managed to control the ball at the second attempt.
Mathieu Debuchy became the latest name to join what is an ever-increasing injury list when he pulled up with a muscle problem on 14 minutes which forced a reshuffle in defence with Davide Santon moved over to right-back and Massadio Haidara brought on at left-back.
That switch seemed to cause confusion in the away defence which Wigan capitalised on when Callum McManaman crossed into the box for Jean Beausejour who fired underneath Rob Elliot at the back post to give the home side the lead on 18 minutes. Both Santon and Haidara could have done better in truth.
I’m sure Haidara would have atoned for his error and continued to impress like he has done when called upon but just nine minutes after replacing Debuchy his game, and season, was over courtesy of a horror challenge by McManaman. Knee-high, studs up, and missed by the referee who has since apologised for missing the “tackle” according to Alan Pardew. In fairness, it’s not Pardew he should be apologising to…
Another shuffle was required as James Perch came on for Haidara. The former Nottingham Forest man slotted into midfield next to Cheik Tiote with Jonas Gutierrez moved to left-back. Not ideal but there wasn’t a lot more we could do having had two of our three subs used up in the opening 23 minutes of the game.
Shaun Maloney forced a decent save from Rob Elliot ten minutes before the interval after creating space on the edge of the box but that was the final effort at goal of a first half that was poor and ended up being overshadowed by that tackle by McManaman.
United had the first opening of the second period although Papiss Cisse ballooned James Perch’s dinked through ball over the bar. Cisse again fired over moments later when there were four men in the middle and squaring the ball seemed to be the better option.
Newcastle were playing better in the second half but Wigan could have gone two goals up had James McArthur’s 68th minute effort not been deflected wide. Just five minutes later though and United were level after good work from Jonas Gutierrez who fed the ball to Sylvain Marveaux who in turn played in Papiss Cisse. The Senegal striker released Davide Santon with a fine first time pass and the Italian stormed in on goal firing past Robles to score his first goal for United.
It looked as though the points would be shared but yet more poor decisions from the officials put an end to that theory. A late corner saw Maynor Figueroa handball at the near post before Franco Di Santo and Paul Scharner saw efforts at goal blocked. A failure to clear the ball then saw Arouna Kone add the decisive touch as he fired the ball into the roof of the net. Poor defending undoubtedly, but the game should have been stopped way before that with Figueroa’s handball.
We lost, I’ve slept on it and I’m still fuming. I don’t want to blame the referee entirely but he had a huge part to play in things. Yes the first goal was poor defending but seeing tackles like that go unpunished and seeing a colleague stretchered off in such a bad state is going to have an effect. Likewise the second goal was ultimately poor defending but it shouldn’t have mattered as the handball was fairly clear even at full speeds.
We were poor, don’t get me wrong, but I do expect a certain amount of officiating from our officials. Mark Halsey failed in his duty yesterday on a number of levels. He failed to enforce the rules of the game and failed to protect players on the pitch. Next time they start begging for respect you have to wonder just why they actually deserve it.
Onwards and upwards…
Wigan: Joel Robles; Emmerson Boyce, Antolin Alcaraz, Paul Scharner, Maynor Figueroa; Shaun Maloney, James McCarthy, Jordi Gomez, Jean Beausejour; Callum McManaman, Arouna Koné
Subs: Ali Al-Habsi, Ronnie Stam, Gary Caldwell, Angelo Henriquez, James McArthur, Roman Golobart, Franco Di Santo
Newcastle: Rob Elliot; Mathieu Debuchy, Steven Taylor, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Davide Santon; Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez; Sylvain Marveaux, Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran; Papiss Cisse
Subs: Steve Harper, Massadio Haidara, James Perch, Vurnon Anita, Dan Gosling, Gabriel Obertan, Shola Ameobi