Aston Villa 0 Wigan Athletic 2

Camara zooms in as Wigan gatecrash European picture
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The Independent Football

Chelsea aside, their form is easily the best in the Premiership, this cosy win taking their tally to 19 points from the last 21.

That remarkable run has hurtled Wigan up into fourth, a dream placing that is no fluke as David O'Leary, the vanquished manager here, generously testified. "They're hungry and full of belief," he said, and that best summed up their intoxicating combination of energy and punch. Latic acid they might one day call it.

Paul Jewell already knows what to call it: "Bloody hard work," said the Wigan manager. "I don't know if the rest are taking us seriously but I assure you we are. But our ambition is still just to stay in the Premiership. Nothing's changed."

How O'Leary would agree with that and how greatly he yearned for Milan Baros as Villa failed miserably to record their first back-to-back victories in 33 matches. As if to prove his assertion that he had just the bare 16 to pick from, O'Leary fielded Jlloyd Samuel, who only on Wednesday had an injection to cure a long-standing shoulder injury. In truth, though, it was a good 16 as the presence on the bench of Juan Pablo Angel and Mark Delaney signified.

Jewell even acknowledged afterwards that he had glanced to his left in envy. But not for too long. His men have quickly learnt to respect reputation like a Villan respects a Blue and once again Wigan struck a blow for the few positivists left in the modern game by taking it to the home side after withstanding the early advances. "We should have been clear after that opening 25 minutes," said O'Leary, but they weren't and Wigan sniffed their quarry after Liam Ridgewell had headed a James Milner free-kick wide and John Filan denied Kevin Phillips.

Unsurprisingly, Samuel was the player found flapping as Henri Camara flew down the right in the 32nd minute before delivering a delicious ball across. Indeed, it was so tasty that, with Jason Roberts lurking behind, Aaron Hughes could not resist a nibble and he poked home one of the more forgivable own goals.

What was not so easily dismissed was young Luke Moore's miss four minutes later when gifted a one-on-one by Arjan de Zeeuw's slip. Filan didn't even flinch as that one flew over but the Australian's ring-pull reactions were necessary on the brink of the break as he somehow kept out a deflected Eirik Bakke fizzer when an equaliser seemed a certainty. As O'Leary maintained, it might even have been warranted.

But opportunities count for nought without being knocked in and when Phillips looped a free header harmlessly to sky, the desperation only grew with the introduction of Angel. His current lack of confidence quickly seeped through the ranks.

Wigan's never dipped. Long before Alan Mahon's spectacular in the 83rd minute, they should have made it safe when Roberts failed to pull the trigger in time and when Camara ruined his mazy run with a greedy shot at Thomas Sorensen. No matter, the young Dubliner was on hand with his 25-yard left-footer to celebrate the show. It summed up the day which is summing up their season.

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