Wigan Athletic 1 Sunderland 0

Wigan shake monkey off their backs
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The Independent Football

And the demeanour of Paul Jewell, the Wigan Athletic manager, afterwards said it all - do not believe that managers and players disregard league tables so early in the season. "We were on top for the first 12 seconds; we were all over them," Jewell smiled.

Gallows humour? Probably just relief following his side's first-ever Premiership win, particularly as Wigan had to defend their lead for a full 89 minutes after Jason Roberts had scored from a first-minute penalty.

"I said to the players at half-time that after they scored the goal, instead of going on, they looked nervous," Jewell said. "This club has come a long way in a short space of time and a victory in the Premiership was a major hurdle to get over.

"We have got it now. We were unlucky against Chelsea, didn't play well against Charlton, but have got our three points today. It is monkey-off-the-back time," he said.

Jewell was quick to recognise this was a game Sunderland did not deserve to lose, but the miserable statistics for the Wearside club continue to accumulate. The last time they won away in the Premiership was three years ago yesterday, the most recent home victory arrived in December 2002 and they have now lost 19 successive top-flight games.

In the circumstances, the last thing they needed was to concede an unnecessary penalty within 15 seconds. The culprit, Gary Breen, later apologised to his team-mates and vowed to make amends over the course of the season.

After that the sides looked evenly matched, though in the circumstances Sunderland did more of the attacking. It is a theme likely to run throughout the season.

Both Jewell and his Sunderland counterpart Mick McCarthy hope to add to their squads before the transfer window closes on Wednesday evening.

As it is, both men have put their faith in an experienced pair of central defenders and a core of domestic talent. Seventeen of the 22 starting players were from the British Isles - as were nine of the substitutes - while the combined age of Breen, Alan Stubbs, Stephane Henchoz and Arjan De Zeeuw is 130.

Breen apart, these old-school defenders did just what their respective managers would want.

Stubbs, in particular, was excellent and his performance, along with Dean Whitehead, an emerging midfield talent, Stephen Elliott and Anthony Le Tallec, suggests that Sunderland are a better side than their results would indicate.

"I'm proud of the players collectively and individually," McCarthy said. "But the only way our luck will turn around is if we keep believing."

Goals: Roberts pen (1) 1-0.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-1-1): Pollitt; Chimbonda, Henchoz (Jackson, 85), De Zeeuw, Baines; Taylor, Francis, Kavanagh (Mahon, 69), McCulloch; Bullard; Roberts. Substitutes not used: Walsh (gk), McMillan, Johansson.

Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Davis; Nosworthy, Breen, Stubbs, Arca; Elliott, Whitehead, Miller, Welsh (Woods, 62); Le Tallec; Stead (Gray, 62). Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Caldwell, Robinson.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Wigan McCulloch, Chimbonda, Henchoz; Sunderland Breen, Arca, Whitehead.

Man of the match: Whitehead.

Attendance: 17,223.

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