Bubble refuses to burst for buoyant Wigan

Wigan Athletic 1 Newcastle United 0
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The Independent Football

And he cannot even get it into his head that the receipt of the Barclays Manager of the Month Award should automatically be followed by a crushing defeat! Much more of this nonsense and he will have us believing that football in the shadow of the Abramovich billions is not the depressingly predictable business it is cracked down to be.

Newcastle United remain, in many ways, in a different world to Jewell's Wigan Athletic but have become the latest big name to find that reputations and resources do not cut much ice at the JJB Stadium.

They were picked off in the first half by Jason Roberts, who thumped one first-half shot against the post and another over the line off the body of goalkeeper Shay Given after a classy three-man build-up.

Yes, the visitors should have had an equaliser when Alan Shearer's 65th-minute header was clearly over the line before Leighton Baines chested away. But, almost as obviously, Shearer pushed Arjan de Zeeuw in reaching the ball in the first place from a corner by Emre, whose arrival as a substitute after half-time did most to raise Newcastle hopes of staving off a first defeat since the signing of Michael Owen.

The officials did not have a good day, Lee McCulloch's foul on Emre five minutes from time barely meriting the red card it brought, but Graeme Souness' exaggerated refusal to criticise them was merely a sideshow to the main event.

Despite a Lee Bowyer bobbler against the post, Newcastle created little for a team blessed with such talent and those who thought Wigan last season were all about the bullying of scared defences by Roberts and Nathan Ellington should take note.

This was only Roberts' second League goal of 2005-06 and the real eye-opener has been at the other end, where opponents have breached them just five times in nine matches in all competitions; evidence of Jewell's outstanding powers of organisation.

Good luck to them. Never has English football had a greater craving for a victorious underdog than it now does. And there are not too many greater examples of over-achievers prevailing against under-achievers than this Saturday lunchtime result.

"We knew we could compete at this level," said the Wigan goalkeeper, John Filan. "We have not got big names but we play well as a team. I don't think that attitude will ever change. Nobody will be allowed to get big-headed, not with the manager."

The truth is, though, that Wigan have had a nightmare since going second in the table at 2.35pm on Saturday. Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United leapfrogged them later in the day and Charlton Athletic can overtake them tonight. There! We all knew the bubble would burst.

Goals: Roberts (40) 1-0 .

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Filan; Chimbonda, Henchoz, De Zeeuw, Baines; Bullard (Taylor, 82), Kavanagh, Francis, McCulloch; Roberts, Camara (Connolly, 76). Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), McMillan, Jackson.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Taylor, Boumsong, Elliott (Clark, 88); Bowyer (Ameobi, 37), Parker, Faye (Emre, h-t), N'Zogbia; Shearer, Owen. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Ramage.

Referee: P Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent).

Booked: Wigan Francis, Henchoz; Newcastle Ameobi, Taylor, Carr. Sent off: Wigan McCulloch.

Man of the match: De Zeeuw.

Attendance: 22,374.

* Steven Carr yesterday announced his retirement from international football following the Republic of Ireland's failure to qualify for next summer's World Cup finals. The former Tottenham full-back, 29, won 39 caps for Ireland.