Raz Mirza takes a look back at Wigan's win against Newcastle at the DW Stadium.
By Razwan Mirza - Tweet me: @RazMirza. Last Updated: 01/04/13 4:51pm
Arouna Kone: Scored late Wigan winner
Arouna Kone boosted Wigan's chances of staying in the Premier League with a late goal to secure a 2-1 win over Newcastle in a game that was marred by an ugly tackle on Massadio Haidara.
Callum McManaman escaped any punishment for a reckless knee-high challenge as Roberto Martinez's side stole the spoils to close the gap to three points on 17th-placed Aston Villa.
Newcastle now find themselves being dragged into a relegation battle, despite sitting in 13th spot after a good recent run of form.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez named the same side which got the club to their first FA Cup semi-final last week. There was a first Premier League start for forward Callum McManaman after recovering from an ankle injury as well as a home debut for on-loan goalkeeper Joel Robles, with Ali Al Habsi having to settle for a place on the bench for the first time after 83 consecutive top-flight appearances. Antolin Alcaraz made his first league start since August. Winger Ryo Miyaichi has been ruled out for several weeks at least and requires surgery on ankle ligaments damaged in the 3-0 victory at Everton.
Newcastle made three changes from Thursday night's 1-0 UEFA Europa League victory over Anzhi Makhachkala. Their influential midfielder Yohan Cabaye was a big loss after he limped out of that game and was missing with a groin injury. Hatem Ben Arfa was also out, but he faces the prospect of surgery on his hamstring and is likely to be out for the rest of the season. Jonas Gutierrez came in and captained the side while Vurnon Anita and Massadio Haidara both dropped to the bench and were replaced by Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran respectively.
Wigan kept their trusted 3-5-2 formation which has seen them playing some of the best football of their season in recent weeks. Antolin Alcaraz played in the middle of a three man backline, while Emmerson Boyce and James McCarthy were used as wing-backs to support the attack and also get back in defensive positions when the side found themselves under pressure. Shaun Maloney played in behind their main striker Kone. During the match, boss Roberto Martinez constantly made the odd tweaks to adapt to the changing nature of the contest.
Newcastle set-up with a 4-2-3-1 system. Moussa Sissoko initially sat behind Papiss Cisse, but supported him on the counter-attack while Jonas Gutierrez found himself playing in more than one position on a busy afternoon for manager Alan Pardew after being forced into making early changes. Sylvain Marveaux and Cheik Tiote were the main holding midfield men for the afternoon, although the formation changed to a more familiar 3-5-2 when Shola Ameobi came onto the field with more than 20 minutes remaining.
Pardew were forced into making a couple of early first-half changes. Mathieu Debuchy was replaced by Massadio Haidara after injuring his hamstring, which meant a reshuffle at the back, with Davide Santon switching to right-back to allow the substitute to slot in at left-back. But then Haidara was stretchered off after a horror tackle by Callum McManaman. That meant Gutierrez found himself filling in at full-back while another sub, James Perch slotted into midfield. Ameobi replaced Yoan Gouffran for the final quarter of the game, but that was more of a tactical move for the Magpies boss.
For Wigan, McManaman was booed off after an hour by Newcastle fans with James McArthur coming on in his place. The player looked a little distressed after being confronted by Newcastle's assistant boss John Carver on the half-time whistle and Roberto Martinez probably felt it was best to bring the 21-year-old off to protect him from the abuse he was receiving. The other change saw striker Franco Di Santo replace goalscorer Jean Beausejour with around 10 minutes of the match remaining.
Lancashire's Mark Halsey was involved in the incident of the game. McManaman's tackle on Haidara in the 22nd minute was high and reckless and should have been a straight red. No matter how many replays were shown of the incident, the Wigan youngster was guilty as charged. However, he escaped punishment because Halsey's view of the incident view was obscured by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and he had no help from any of his assistants, so could not send him off. Altogether, the man in the middle tried to keep his cards firmly in his pocket for much of the afternoon brandishing the yellow just three times to add to his tally of 34 already shown this season.
Shaun Maloney is starting to produce the kind of performances which won him much acclaim towards the end of Wigan's last campaign. He was very creative in possession and was always looking to unlock the Newcastle door when he received the ball in behind their backline and midfield as Tiote and Marveaux struggled to pick him up.
For the visitors. Gutierrez was a real trojan and despite having to play in three different positions during the match, he showed how capable he is at adapting to a situation.
With nine Premier League games left for Wigan there is suddenly a sense that the great escape in on again for the DW outfit. It was around this time last season the Lancashire outfit put together a formidable run which saw them win seven of their last nine matches to escape relegation. Can they do it again? Well, they recorded just their third win on home soil against Newcastle, but are certainly playing like a side that are quite willing to express themselves in attack. Martinez is confident his side can utilise the feel good factor of fans looking forward to an FA Cup semi-final appearance and improve on the worst home record in the top flight. After the international break they welcome Norwich before a crucial away trip to bottom side QPR.
Newcastle arrived on the back of two late victories, in the league and in Europe, and four wins in their last six games, but the Latics having taken more points off the Magpies than against any other top-flight opponent and they did so again today. The Magpies find themselves contemplating a Europa League quarter-final and daring to dream of an end to their 44-year trophy drought, but they must start watching over their shoulder because they're just six points above the relegation zone and have a tricky trip to Manchester City to look forward to in a couple of weeks. They then travel to Lisbon to take on Benfica before what could be a season defining home clash against Fulham.
Barclays Premier League
|12||West Ham United||38||47|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||38||44|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||38||30|
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