Sunderland 0 Wigan Athletic 3: Scharner heaps woe on abject Sunderland

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The Independent Football

Enough is enough, Roy Keane said beforehand of his Sunderland players' underachievement of late. Wearside's punters were justified in saying the same of Keane last night.

A shocking performance from Sunderland, one that did not yield an effort on target until Roy O'Donovan hit the crossbar in the 83rd minute, heaped further misery on a fanbase who have stuck with the club through this difficult season.

Some of them cannot be far from turning; this was a fourth defeat in five games, and in three cup-ties since Keane arrived on Wearside Sunderland have still not scored. Each has been lost to Preston, Luton and now Wigan. One Sunderland fan, Keane said, approached the bench and shouted: "You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Keane did not challenge him. "I couldn't agree more," Keane said, "I feel pretty ashamed at that. Sunderland losing 3-0 at home to Wigan is hard to take. The fans are intelligent, I can understand their feeling.

"It was a game we wanted to win and we haven't cut corners. I wish I could say I played the kids and fringe players but I can't hide behind that. I didn't see this coming. I felt before the game I'd put out a team to win it. But it's not good enough."

Keane's honesty will win some plaudits, but to Sunderland supporters it will not disguise the sheer lack of quality on show from a manager who spent35 million last summer and who will be given more to spend this month. Around 2.5m of that went on Paul McShane, but no one before yesterday was arguing it was money well spent.

Afterwards, no one would have dared. McShane was part of a defence that failed to pick up Paul Scharner in the 19th minute and then scored a comical own goal 11 minutes into the second half. But McShane plays every week, and Keane was correct in saying that he did not select a weakened team. Steve Bruce did, though; he made seven changes from the 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Wednesday.

Even with that and losing two players to injury before half-time, Wigan were still far too cosy. Sunderland began with a flurry of attacking but, setting a pattern, no chances were created. Then Wigan were awarded a free-kick 30 yards out, Josip Skoko took it and Scharner jogged in at the far post to plant an unmarked header past Craig Gordon. "I could hear Sunderland's bench shouting, 'Pick up Scharner'," Bruce said.

They were not listening, and continued to play in a vague, restless style. Graham Kavanagh was recalled and managed at times to slow the game in a recognisably midfield way. Jonny Evans also started having signed on loan on Friday, but Evans'day was ruined by his part in McShane's own goal.

After Evans had been bullied out of possession by substitute Julius Aghahowa, Aghahowa and McShane were left chasing for a loose ball on the edge of the area. McShane got there first, which is his job, but his firm contact took the ball beyond Gordon and into the bottom corner.

There was no way back, and the 20,000 knew it. When David Cotterill stepped forward 15 minutes from the end, Sunderland backed off and allowed a clean strike to travel around 25 yards past Gordon at full stretch. Bruce was delighted with the result and performance but disap-pointed with the sense of occasion. "I never thought I'd see that in the FA Cup," Bruce said of the empty seats. But any disappointment paled beside Keane's.

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