The Premier League suddenly looks a slightly less hostile environment for Wolves, who got their survival bid off to a start with a totally unexpected win at the DW Stadium.
An early header from Andrew Keogh, who thereafter typified their willingness to chase anything and everything, did the trick – and there was never much conviction in Wigan's attempts to repair that damage. It was a painful blow to them after such a promising start to their campaign on Saturday.
The new Wigan manager, Roberto Martinez, felt his side had suffered for a hectic week, including a heavy toll of international call-ups.
"It's been a very demanding week for us and we paid the price for it in the first 25 minutes, when Wolves took advantage," he said.
After surprising everyone, including themselves, by winning at Aston Villa on the opening day, Wigan fielded an unchanged side.
Wolves had been having a crash course in how difficult it is going to be for them in this first season back in the top flight, with a home defeat by West Ham followed by injuries to their two leading strikers, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Kevin Doyle. That left Mick McCarthy with what seemed like limited firepower against a settled Latics team.
It was anything but that in the first few minutes, however. After just three, Matt Jarvis opened up a hesitant back four with a deft pass and Keogh hit the woodwork from a difficult angle.
The same two players were involved three minutes later when Wolves took the shock lead. The lively Jarvis was fouled on the left by Mario Melchiot and, from Nenad Milijas' free-kick, Keogh, one of McCarthy's Irish contingent at Molineux, got in a perfect glancing header to beat Chris Kirkland and score just inside the far post. "He's been the stand-out pre-season and since the season started he's been terrific," said McCarthy. "My abiding memory will be of him walking off and four or five thousand people chanting his name."
It could have been worse for the lethargic Latics. After 14 minutes the irrepressible Keogh got up for another telling header, this time from a Milijas corner. That presented Greg Halford with an inviting chance, but he blazed high and wide with a volley.
Wigan came only fitfully into the game. Jordi Gomez, Martinez's key recruit from last season's Swansea side, put in a low cross which Jody Craddock sliced dangerously across his own goal. The Spaniard also had the ball in the Wolves net from a free-kick, but from a clearly offside position.
Wigan's best spell came when Charles N'Zogbia had a shot blocked by Wayne Hennessy and another deflected wide. For the most part, though, Wolves were comfortable in defending their unexpected lead and always looked capable of mounting a threatening counter-attack, from one of which Halford fired another effort wide when a better contact would really have given Wigan something to fret about during the interval. There was a potentially pivotal moment 11 minutes into the second half, when Keogh turned past Titus Bramble in the Wigan area and came to ground in a heap. The Wolves fans at that end of the ground had no doubts that it was a penalty; the referee, Michael Jones, disagreed and booked Keogh instead.
Not surprisingly, Martinez felt the need to make changes, bringing on Scott Sinclair and Jason Scotland in a double substitution. By this stage, however, Wolves were defending as if their season depended on the game and chances were few and far between. Karl Henry, playing just in front of the back four, was a particularly destructive influence when it came to breaking up Wigan's attacks.
Hugo Rodallega had an effort deflected wide and Scotland put a ball across the face of goal, but Wolves remained composed. Sinclair's header two minutes from the end flashed wide and Wolves had the spoils they deserved.
"It feels pretty good," said McCarthy. "We've proved we can win in the Premier League."
Wigan Athletic (4-5-1): Kirkland; Melchiot, Bramble, Scharner, Figueroa; Thomas, Brown (Scotland, 61), Gomez, Koumas (Sinclair, 61), N'Zogbia; Rodallega. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Edman, Scotland, Boyce, King.
Wolves (4-1-4-1): Hennessey; Stearman, Craddock, Mancienne, Ward; Henry; Halford (Surman, 64), Edwards, Milijas (Jones, 55), Jarvis; Keogh (Vokes, 80). Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), Elokobi, Zubar, Spray.
Booked: Wolves Keogh, Stearman.
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).
Man of the match: Keogh.
He's on fire
That Keogh header grew more valuable as the match went on and Wigan's frustration grew.Reuse content