WIGAN 1 NEWCASTLE UTD 0
WIGAN: Pollitt, Taylor, Jackson, Thome (Henchoz 30), McMillan (Baines 45), McCulloch, Teale, Skoko, Mahon, Connolly, Johansson (Roberts 69).
Subs Not Used: Francis, Bullard.
NEWCASTLE: Given, Ramage, Boumsong, Elliott, N’Zogbia, Bowyer (Brittain 45), Parker, Solano, Emre (Faye 71), Shearer, Luque (Chopra 57).
Subs Not Used: Harper, Clark.
Graeme Souness didn’t need telling what the fans thought of this performance. He said afterwards it was ‘unacceptable’, and it was all summed up when the biggest cheer of the night from the Geordies was when we won a corner! We’ve all heard the joke about doing a lap of honour … and the word ‘joke’ just about right. Because this wasn’t a football match. It was the most one-side 1-0 I think most of us had ever seen.
Jewell made nine changes to his side, so this was a Wigan Reserve side, which makes it all the more hard to take.
With extra-time looming, referee Steve Bennett pointed to the spot when Jason Roberts was held in the area by Robbie Elliott, allowing Connolly to beat Republic of Ireland team-mate Shay Given.
Given was superb. The one Newcastle player to come out of this with his head held high. As for the rest? Well, let’s look at the rest:
How the defence held out for 88 minutes was the big surprise of the evening. Ramage has caught the eye of the England manager, but it was frightening to see how easily he was pushed off the ball as the Wigan players seemed to knock him around like a rag doll. On the left we had Charlie N’Zogbia giving his all, but looking like a fish out of water at full-back, as the home side continued to swing over crosses that should have been cut out.
Given was constantly under pressure on corner kicks, as Wigan placed three men around him then sent in a cross that was just out of reach. Not the usual ‘keep it away from the keeper’, this was designed to make him flap, and it happened all night.
But it was the midfield that never got into gear, and with five internationals in there, you have to expect more from them. Parker and Emre were second best to players who cost coppers, not millions. Solano didn’t know where he was supposed to be most of the time. Souness told him to change his game and thread balls through the middle, which didn’t work because Wigan were on him in a flash. That didn’t work, so Souness went for Plan ‘B’ and put him on the wing … on the LEFT!
The Scot had obviously lost the plot by this time. Shearer hardly broke into a sprint all night, and only seemed to confuse things in the middle of the park … where he spent 90 minutes of the match. So Souness decided to try Luque as the strike opion, but it was all too much for the Spaniard, who seemed to be dreaming of Benidorm and Sticky Vicky rather than finding the back of the net.
Yet, via a combination of superb goalkeeping from Given – although he was lucky to get away with dropping the ball at two of those corners – and woeful finishing, the Magpies somehow headed into the break on level terms. 11-0 down on corners, but you don’t get anything in this game for that stat.
The break, and stinging words from Souness to his players, undoubtedly knocked Wigan out of their stride … well, for ten minutes or so. Emre came closest of all midway in the second half by cracking the base of the left hand post with a raking 25-yard drive. Then Wigan struck the bar with Given beaten.
But, with the extra 30 minutes on the cards, Bennett intervened and Connolly made no mistake to further add to Souness’ woes.
It was another horror show, and Souness is once again looking at the hangman’s noose.
Wigan 1 Toon 0
WIGAN 1 NEWCASTLE UTD 0