Bullard finish adds sparkle to Jewell's simple style

Leeds United 0 - Wigan Athletic 2
Click to follow
The Independent Football

"I'm not into all the history," said Paul Jewell. "I'm into three points and a game against Stoke on Tuesday."

Overcoming Leeds on their first visit to Elland Road, stretching their lead at the top of the Championship to six points and maintaining their record as England's only unbeaten club was, for a town known chiefly for its rugby league and non-existent pier, a moment of real achievement.

However, the manager of Wigan is not a man for great speeches. Had he been asked to give the Gettysburg Address, Jewell would have said: "The boys worked hard for the result but we've got to go to Atlanta now and that's always a difficult place to burn to the ground."

Jewell is right to be cautious. The Wigan Pier was an illusion caused by George Orwell mistaking a canalside coal jetty for something altogether more fun - typically, Orwell did not bother to check - and Wigan's start to last season proved equally illusory. This time last year, they thrashed Crystal Palace 5-0 to go top of the Football League, pushing the Londoners into 20th position. Seven months later, Palace were in the Premiership and Wigan had failed even to make the play-offs, courtesy of Brian Deane's 90th-minute goal for West Ham.

They faced Deane again yesterday and the big striker had two clear opportunities in the closing moments, crosses that invited a trademark header and he made a hash of them both. Had he not, the result would have made a travesty of the play. Wigan passed better, worked harder and, against a side that had conceded twice at Elland Road all season, their finishing was on a different planet.

Alan Mahon's drive from 20 yards was spectacular but the second spoke more about Wigan's confidence. Jason Roberts, who had two defenders clinging to his shirt, slipped through Jimmy Bullard, who faced the tightest of angles. A simple square ball to Nathan Ellington would have guaranteed the goal. Instead, he shot: the mark of a side awash with self-belief, the mark of a side with a better goal difference than Arsenal or Celtic. He scored.

As a former manager of Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday who still lives in Yorkshire, Jewell was well aware of what it means to beat Leeds. Wigan had only ever met them once, in the 1987 FA Cup quarter-final when Jewell was playing for the club, which remains arguably their greatest day. This exactly reversed the result.

Like his friend Peter Reid, in his successful years at Sunderland, Jewell has discovered the knack of bringing on footballers from the lower leagues, although after the success of Roberts' transfer from West Brom, he is tempted to spend a little more of his chairman Dave Whelan's money on the Tottenham midfielder, Michael Carrick. With a population of 90,000 - similar to Blackburn and slightly smaller than Middlesbrough, both of whom had benefactors to pay for Premiership football - Wigan could not have functioned without Whelan's investment, which has been wisely spent.

You would not say the same of Leeds, although £600,000 on David Healy appears a reasonable buy for a team that requires months before its disparate components can be properly knit together. Today is another red-letter day in Leeds. Sebastian Sainsbury will be required to provide proof he has the required £25m to take the club over while Parliament will debate the Gaming Act that, if passed, will allow a super-casino at Elland Road, the scene of so much ruinous gambling in the past.

Goals: Mahon (46) 0-1; Bullard (52) 0-2.

Leeds United: (4-4-2) Sullivan; Kelly, Carlisle, Kilgallon, Pugh; Richardson (Wright, 58), Gregan, Walton (Joachim, 71), Johnson (Lennon, 75); Healy, Deane. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Ricketts.

Wigan Athletic: (4-4-2) Filan; Wright, Jackson, Breckin, Baines; Graham (Flynn, 73), Bullard, Mahon, McCulloch; Roberts, Ellington (Mitchell, 87). Substitutes not used: Walsh (gk), McMillan, Whalley.

Referee: M Dean (Merseyside).

Booked: Leeds United: Carlisle, Johnson, Gregan. Wigan Athletic: McCulloch.

Man of the match: Bullard.

Attendance: 27,432.