Wolves 3 Wigan Athletic 1

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Wigan Athletic
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Wigan Athletic

LATICS stay rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after another demoralising defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Wolves.

Despite again enjoying decent spells of possession and territory, Latics once more paid the penalty for not taking their numerous chances and were punished by an out-of-form Wolves side who recorded a first victory in eight.

Even Wigan’s goal was virtually handed to them on a plate, Ben Watson seeing a first-half penalty saved only for the ball to rebound back to him on the edge of the six-yard box, and he couldn’t really miss.

But another off-day for the likes of Franco di Santo and Hugo Rodallega – whose first-half miss had to be seen to be believed – means Latics are in deep trouble even at this early stage of the campaign.

Indeed, if it hadn’t been for another world-class performance from Ali Al Habsi, the winning margin would have been far more emphatic.

Roberto Martinez had made two changes to the side beaten at home by Fulham last weekend, Steve Gohouri replacing the suspended Gary Caldwell and Albert Crusat dropping to the bench to accommodate the return of Di Santo.

Roared on by a bumper home crowd, Wolves flew out of the blocks and subjected Latics to a hugely-uncomfortable opening 10 minutes.

David Edwards warmed the hands of Al Habsi with only four minutes gone, before the Wigan goalkeeper was extremely fortunate not to concede a penalty moments latert.

Stephen Hunt broke down the middle and rounded Al Habsi, who appeared to catchy the Wolves winger on his way past.

The Irishman stayed on his feet when others would have gone to ground, but had pushed himself too wide and could make nothing of the resulting cross.

Referee Lee Probert waved away Wolves’ protests, and the official angered the home fans again seconds later when he turned down another shout for a spot-kick.

Hunt’s corner towards the far post was nodded back by Roger Johnson into the arm of Antolin Alcaraz, who couldn’t really do anything such was the close proximity of the header.

Latics had their first chance on the 20-minute mark when Momo Diame lobbed the ball into the box towards Di Santo, who controlled well on his chest and went down under contact from Johnson.

Again Probert ruled play on, but at least Latics had announced themselves as an attacking force.

Moments later, good play from Victor Moses and Diame allowed Rodallega a brief sight of goal, but the finish was weak and straight at Wayne Hennessey.

At the other end, Edwards headed just wide from Hunt’s cross, before Kevin Doyle was clipped by Alcaraz to earn the Paraguayan the first yellow card of the afternoon.

Despite the stakes, the game was end-to-end from the opening quarter, and Latics had a two-on-two break that they really should have done better from.

Di Santo’s flick to Rodallega was sublime, but the return ball from the Colombian was way too strong and allowed Richard Stearman to nick the ball away at the expense of a throw-in.

Latics had the ball in the net two minutes later when Rodallega headed past Hennessey, although the flag was up and the ‘goal’ was chalked off.

Rodallega then came up with a quite astonishing miss on the half-hour mark, when he took a Di Santo through ball beautifully on his chest before side-footing wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.

With many of the crowd still gasping in disbelief, Latics’ season was summed up as Wolves promptly went right up the other end and opened the scoring barely 30 seconds later.

Hennessey’s goal kick was flicked on enabling Doyle to wriggle free down the right, and his cross was slotted home with aplomb by an unmarked Jamie O’Hara with Al Habsi left with no chance.

Rodallega’s reaction said it all as Wolves celebrated in front of their fans, the striker sinking to his knees and lifting his shirt over his face to disguise the anger and frustration he must have been feeling – emotions that were also being felt in the away end.

To Wigan’s credit, though, they didn’t let their heads go down when it would have been easy to do that.

And their enterprise was rewarded when they duly found an equaliser 10 minutes later.

The goal owed everything to some great play from Emmerson Boyce down the right, the full-back marauding to the box and about to pull the trigger before he was bundled over by Hunt for a stonewall penalty kick.

Despite missing his last spot-kick against Swansea in August, Watson was again trusted with the responsibility - and once again his strike, to the goalkeeper’s right, was saved.

However, unlike that day at the Liberty Stadium, the ball rebounded back to Watson’s feet, and the midfielder made no mistake from eight yards with his left foot.

Wolves made one change at the break, Matt Jarvis coming on down the left for Adlene Guedioura, but it was Wigan’s winger Moses who had the first opportunity of the second period.

Swift passing left him one-on-one against Stephen Ward but, instead of taking on the Wolves left-back, Moses shot from a very difficult angle and saw the ball soar over the crossbar.

Latics came close again two minutes when Di Santo turned on the edge of the area and got his shot away that rolled just wide of the near post.

But, just as had been the case in the first half, Latics paid the penalty for not making the most of their chances and fell behind 10 minutes after the restart.

Karl Henry created the danger as he surged through the left channel, and his cross found Hunt unmarked eight yards from goal.

The finish was decent but Al Habsi pulled off a super save, only for the ball to loop out to O’Hara, who headed powerfully goalwards from point-blank range.

Al Habsi had no right to even move let along keep it out, but he somehow clawed the ball out right on the goalline for a quite magnificent save.

However, when he needed a bit of luck, the goalkeeper got none as the ball rolled out to Edwards, who reacted quicker than a couple of Wigan defenders to smash home.

And the home side delivered a killer blow when they added a third on 66 minutes.

Again Wigan’s defending wasn’t great, Jarvis getting free down the left and pulling the ball back from the byline.

O’Hara’s initial shot was blocked, but Hunt was on hand to convert the rebound from 12 yards out.

It was very nearly four within three minutes, O’Hara’s free-kick being headed powerfully goalwards by Christophe Berra before Al Habsi thrust out a left hand and diverted the ball over the bar for a stunning stop.

Di Santo should have done better with 15 minutes to go, beating his man only to fire in a strike that barely reached Hennessey.

By this time, Crusat, James McArthur and Conor Sammon were on, with Watson, Rodallega and Jones making way.

And two of the new-boys combined with 10 minutes left, when Crusat’s cross was volleyed towards the top corner by Sammon, Hennessey having to tip the ball over the bar.

From the resulting corner, Steve Gohouri’s headed was helped round the post by the goalkeeper, with Latics unable to force the goal that would have made for a tense finale.

Their afternoon was summed up in the very last minute, when Di Santo’s shot deflected perfectly to Diame, 10 yards from goal, but the finish was woeful and barely glanced the side-netting.

Latics: Al Habsi 9; Boyce 6, Gohouri 6, Alcaraz 6, Figueroa 6; Moses 7, Jones 7, Watson 6, Diame 6, Rodallega 5; Di Santo 6. Subs: Pollitt, Lopez, McArthur (for Jones, 77), Gomez, Crusat (for Watson, 65) 6, Sammon (for Rodallega, 77).

Wolves: Hennessey; Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward; Edwards, Guedioura, O’Hara, Henry, Hunt; Doyle. Subs: De Vries, Elokobi, Milijas, Jarvis (for Guedioura, 46), Hammill, Ebanks-Blake, Fletcher.