The common consensus amongst our fans was that we had to win this one. Yet the hardy north-eastern club who are use to adverse conditions managed to battle back from 1-0 down to win this one. It all came at a price, and that was the 12 million they spent on Steven Fletcher in the summer. It shows what splashing the cash gets you.
Jordi Gomez and Ronnie Stamm the two changes made by Roberto Martinez from the game against Fulham. The idea was to go more attacking, or hopefully any way as having Jordi Gomez on the pitch lose an edge defensively, and by half time the cost for starting Gomez had already been paid when we were 3-1 down.
Inside the first five minutes though, the Wigan faithful had something to cheer about. A good passing move as Jordi Gomez got Jean Beausejour free down the left hand side, whose low driven cross found James McArthur. His shot was then bundled into his own goal by David Vaughan. Spirits lifted and was this Wigan's rise in form?
No it wasn't. The referee had other ideas, as the gods of football looked to squash any chance of the minnows getting anywhere in the world. Emmerson Boyce going to take the ball of wannabe English International Adam Johnson, down fell the winger and yellow card for Boyce. The softest of touches and the winger hit the ground like a sack of spuds. The resulting free kick was poorly struck by Seb Larsson, and hit straight into our wall. The leaping men were said to have used their hands and the referee pointed to the spot.
Was the ball heading to the goal? No. Was any Sunderland player getting on the end of it? No. And was James McArthur's arm out stretched? Yet again negative.
So with the black cats grinning, they took their reward and Craig Gardener scored the equalizer and changed the game. Sunderland were now on top, buoyed by their sell out stand, as the cold Wiganers looked on hurt and injured.
Two more Sunderland goals followed both by Steven Fletcher, and both due to a Gary Caldwell mistake. The first Alfred N'Diaye floating a ball across goal, Fletcher like a determined puppy dog chased the ball and got his head, then foot to the ball as he forced it in. Mr. Caldwell missing to first header the ball, then failing to clear the excellent save from Ali Al Habsi. Fletcher's second was yet again fortuitous. Caldwell slipping as he went to challenge Adam Johnson in the air. The ball laied off to Fletcher who curled it home.
3-1 and Sunderland took their chances. They should have scored more, yet they were wasteful. Wigan having a dire first half and the wearside club couldn't exploit that too it’s fullest. That should have cost them three points, as Wigan regrouped in the second half due to one fantastic substitution.
Ronnie Stamm was replaced by Roger Espinoza. A strange change for many, as the Dutch full back has been by far our best attacking outlet throughout the game. Yet on came our latest Honduran and changed the way in which Latics conducted our second half.
We went 4-3-3, Maloney and Gomez going either side of Di Santo who had a poor game all round. The midfield was strengthened and that showed as we got a foot hold in the game and was able to pass the ball about willingly.
Simon Mignolet would have a busy second half. Pulling off some fantastic saves to deny Wigan away back into the game. Two minutes into the half a lovely low diving save to stop Shaun Maloney getting on the score sheet after great work by Espinoza to work the space in the middle of a congested midfield. It was the former Kansas City player we needed on the ball; full of energy and options he added that extra dynamic to the team.
Yet it wasn't enough to break Sunderland's rear guard action. The referee was doing all he could to be a Sunderland player, twice denying Wigan penalties. The first after James McArthur was tripped up in the box by Titus Bramble. The second when James McCarthy had a shot blocked by the arm of Jack Colback. Of course it wasn't a Wigan player doing the foul so no penalty.
Gaps were being left at the back. Yet Captain Caldwell was plugging the leaks. Fletcher and Stephane Sessengon must have wondered what they had done to upset the Scottish international with his strong tackling. One situation where guile was needed though Caldwell again stood up to the test. Sessegnonn going through on goal, Caldwell sprinting back to put off the striker on his hunt for a goal.
Instead Wigan would get the only goal of the second half. With ten minutes to go before full time, 18 year old Angelo Henriquez got the goal that gave hope to Wigan fans. It may have been false hope about the game, but about a new goal scorer being in town, we believe.
Shaun Maloney on the left hand side got the ball onto his stronger right foot and floated the ball into the back post. The Chilean Henriquez who had been on ten minutes, has already given Colback problems, he will now have given the full back nightmares; Angelo jumping above him and headering the ball home.
Yet it was too little, too late. The two men on had changed the half, but they couldn't change the game. To do that they should have started, and maybe we wouldn’t now feel like we had lost a lot more than three points.