DCSIMG

Wigan Athletic 2 Stoke City 0

Stoke City's Matthew Etherington (right) tussles with Wigan Athletic's Antolin Alcaraz during the Barclays Premier League match at the DW Stadium, Wigan

Stoke City's Matthew Etherington (right) tussles with Wigan Athletic's Antolin Alcaraz during the Barclays Premier League match at the DW Stadium, Wigan

ANTOLIN Alcaraz and Victor Moses grabbed the goals as Latics recorded back-to-back victories for the first time this season.

Results elsewhere did them no favours as they remained second-bottom of the Premier League, but it was a priceless victory for Roberto Martinez’s men.

It had been the same old story in the first half, Latics getting the better of their opponents but unable to hammer home their advantage on the scoresheet.

That included a quite astonishing miss from Jean Beausejour, but the Chilean made amends with an in inch-perfect cross at the start of the second half that was headed home by Antolin Alcaraz.

The Wigan defence then coped magnificently with everything the visitors could throw at them, and the win was sealed deep into stoppage-time when Moses rounded goalkeeper Asmir Begovic before side-footing home.

With Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal to come over the next three weekends, the three points could turn out to be crucial in the end-of-season shake-up.

The Wigan boss had, as expected, named the same side as recorded that historic victory at Liverpool last weekend, the only change being fit-again David Jones for Hendry Thomas on the bench.

Martinez would have been looking for the same barnstorming start to the game that the side made to the last home game against West Brom, but it was the visitors who settled into their rhythm first.

With only four minutes gone, Jermaine Pennant’s corner was flicked on by Peter Crouch and parried by Ali Al Habsi before being brought away by James McArthur.

Within seconds the ball was at the other end, Franco di Santo doing well to charge down an attempted clearance by Andy Wilkinson on halfway.

The striker bore down on goal with Wilkinson unable to get back, but his shot was half-stopped by Begovic at the expense of a corner.

Di Santo’s face said it all, and Latics could scarcely have received a better opportunity to grab that all-important early goal.

Stoke were quickly back on the front foot, Crouch heading over Al Habsi’s bar before Alcaraz managed to prevent the next cross from reaching him.

But again Latics showed their intent as Gary Caldwell stayed up for a corner and tried to pick out an onrushing James McCarthy, only for Moses to take it off his toes and run down a blind alley.

Moses made partial amends with a lovely one-two with Emmerson Boyce and picked out Shaun Maloney at the far post, and the shot was the game’s goalbound before Begovic turned it round the post.

Latics were almost in again on the 20-minute mark when a deep cross from Beausejour found Boyce in acres of space.

Instead of heading for goal, the full-back elected to try to take the ball down, but his touch was poor and the defence were able to clear.

The ball found its way to Maynor Figueroa just inside the Stoke half, and the Honduran was urged to shoot by those in the Boston Stand who clearly hadn’t forgotten his effort from much further out against the Potters two seasons ago.

Figueroa tried to give the fans what they wanted, but this time his aim was off and Begovic was able to watch it fly past the post.

Stoke’s game-plan was evident right from the off, and Crouch was the target for diagonal balls from both flanks at every opportunity.

Alcaraz seemed the be the man taking responsibility for jumping with the former England man, and he was winning virtually everything inside the opening quarter.

Maloney then did well to work himself a yard down the left, and his cross was only inches away from finding McCarthy, coming in like an express train.

After a slow start, Latics had taken over in terms of possession and territory, but they were given a warning just after the half-hour mark when another flick-on by Crouch was sliced into the danger area by Boyce.

But Jon Walters couldn’t take advantage and pulled his shot wide of the near post.

Marc Wilson picked up the game’s first caution for a blatant pull-back on Moses, although Mark Clattenburg more than restored parity by taking the names of Beausejour and Boyce within 60 seconds for seemingly innocuous offences.

The home fans were up in arms for far greater reason five minutes before the break when Moses played a magnificent ball across the six-yard box that had ‘GOAL’ written all over it.

However, from four yards out, Beausejour completely misjudged the flight of the ball, got his feet stuck under himself and succeeded only in stubbing the ball back towards where it had come from.

If ever a season could be summed up in one move that was it, and the collective head-in-hands from the boys in blue was far from the first time it had been seen this year.

There was more frustration within seconds of the restart when Maloney’s cross was clearly handled inside the Stoke box by Dean Whitehead, only for Clattenburg to wave play on.

Clattenburg further infuriated the home fans moments later when he failed to show a card to Whitehead for as blatant as yellow-card offence as you’ll see, hauling back Moses as the winger launched a breakaway.

Etherington was in some discomfort since being taken late by Boyce at the end of the first half, and he failed to run off the problem and was replaced by Cameron Jerome.

Glenn Whelan then had his name taken for a cheap foul on Figueroa - and Latics exacted the perfect revenge.

Maloney did well to release Beausejour down the left, and his pinpoint cross was met with a bullet header by Alcaraz.

The relief around the stadium was tangible, although all inside the DW knew the remaining 36 minutes would be far from comfortable.

Initially, the signs were promising, Latics keeping hold of the ball well and making the visitors chase some long shadows.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis played his final hand early, withdrawing Pennant and Walters in favour of Ricardo Fuller and Wilson Palacios who, despite the stakes, received a very warm reception from the Wigan faithful.

Martinez responded by sending on Ben Watson - who’d scored Wigan’s dramatic equaliser from the penalty spot in the 2-2 draw between the two sides on New Year’s Eve - for Maloney, the new boy presumably also inheriting the spot-kick duties.

Moses then took on four defenders on a mazy run that was only halted by a cynical tug of the shirt by Whitehead, who became the fifth man to be booked.

And the free-kick should have brought about number two, Watson’s beautiful delivery finding Beausejour all on his own at the far post.

But, for the second time, the Chilean’s connection was woeful and it trickled into the grateful arms of a grounded Begovic.

Clattenburg was in danger of running out of ink at this stage, with Andy Wilkinson the latest man to see yellow for a trip on Beausejour.

Wilkinson almost made his presence felt for the right reasons moments later, his deep cross being headed just wide by Ryan Shawcross from close range.

That was the signal for Di Santo to be replaced by Jordi Gomez, who’d penned a new deal 24 hours previously, meaning the lone striking role was passed on to Moses.

And the new-boy was quickly into the game, with a crunching tackle that stopped Wilson dead in his tracks and brought about a huge cheer from the fans on the far side.

Alarm bells were ringing when Fuller got the better of Boyce down the Stoke left, and his teasing cross evaded the first line of defence and Al Habsi.

Thankfully, McArthur was on hand to clear the ball from the danger zone.

Conor Sammon then entered the fray for Beausejour, with Moses reverting to a more customary spot down the flank.

Gomez was denied a fairytale goal with two minutes left when McArthur played him through, only for Shawcross to come out of nowhere and make a fantastic block.

There was a collective groan of disbelief when the fourth official indicated an additional four minutes would be played.

But any fears of a late sting in the tale were extinguished when Moses raced clear and rounded Begovic before sliding the ball into an empty net to the delight - and huge relief - of all and sundry.

Latics: Al Habsi 7; Alcaraz 9, Caldwell 8, Figueroa 8; Boyce 6, McArthur 7, McCarthy 7, Beausejour 6; Moses 8, Maloney 7; Di Santo 7. Subs: Kirkland, Stam, Jones, Crusat, Watson (for Maloney, 70) 7, Gomez (for Di Santo, 83), Sammon (for Beausejour, 88).

Stoke: Begovic; Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson; Pennant, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington; Walters, Crouch. Subs: Sorensen, Upson, Shotton, Palacios (for Pennant, 66), Fuller (for Walters, 66), Jerome (for Etherington, 49), Jones.

 

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