Luckily, for the visitors, they had the resources to deliver a knockout punch. It meant a first away win in the Premiership for Wigan Athletic. For West Bromwich Albion, alas, it confirmed a third successive defeat, greeted by home supporters' chants of "What a load of rubbish".
Bryan Robson, angrier than his deadpan delivery showed, kept his players in their dressing-room afterwards as he read his version of the riot act. "A few harsh words have been said," he admitted, his disappointment just kept under control in public. "The lads have kidded me for the last few weeks - and that is not acceptable. I'm not surprised by the fans' reaction. Whatever club you are at, if you cannot beat Wigan, in their first season up, you will get booed."
It was the afternoon when last season's great escape was erased from the memories. Albion's ponderous defence, predictable midfield and toothless attack, in which former Wigan hero Nathan Ellington suffered and was taunted by the visiting fans, bore no resemblance to the team that rose from the abyss under Robson's control between last Christmas and the final day last season. "We are back to square one as far as I am concerned," Robson said.
Curtis Davies, signed from Luton for £3m, was left on the bench. A defender of athleticism and potential, he was sorely missed as Albion lurched from 1-0 ahead, thanks to a poor punch by Wigan goalkeeper Mike Pollitt and a crashing shot by Jonathan Greening, to defeat.
Albion have now conceded nine goals in three consecutive defeats. That is relegation form. They have to return to the training ground and relearn how to concentrate, mark properly and defend with heart. Wigan, buoyed by the oxygen of promotion, a first home win in the top division against Sunderland two weeks earlier and the sharp movements of David Connolly, stuck to their system, worked tirelessly and gained their reward.
Connolly, signed from Leicester and making his Premiership and Wigan debuts, equalised with a perfect striker's goal, a left-foot shot on the run as he turned on to a cleverly angled pass from Damien Francis.
Jimmy Bullard, one of the men who has risen with Wigan from the Football League, scored the winner in injury time, after the former Albion man Jason Roberts was left unmarked. Albion's defence was absent from duty. Or perhaps they were on the ropes and waiting for the bell.
Goals: Greening (26) 1-0; Connolly (40) 1-1; Bullard (90) 1-2.
West Bromwich Albion (3-5-2): Kirkland; Albrechtsen, Gaardsoe, Clement; Watson, Wallwork (Earnshaw, 71), Greening, Carter (Chaplow, 57), Robinson; Horsfield, Ellington (Campbell, 71). Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Davies.
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Pollitt; Chimbonda, Henchoz, De Zeeuw, Baines; Bullard, Francis (Skoko, 89), Kavanagh (Taylor, 79), McCulloch; Roberts, Connolly. Substitutes not used: Walsh (gk), McMillan, Jackson.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
Booked: WBA Wallwork, Horsfield, Gaardsoe; Wigan Henchoz.
Man of the match: Connolly.
Attendance: 25,617.Reuse content