'Selfish' Stoke make no apologies for dire spectacle

Wigan Athletic 0 Stoke City 0
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The Independent Football

Unpalatable though some of their critics find them, Stoke City appear determined not to leave themselves open to accusations of hypocrisy. A game on from their deflowering of Arsenal, they have been likened by no less a judge than Wigan Athletic's manager Steve Bruce to the Wimbledon side of the Eighties. But there is no indication that the robust methods which have given them a sniff of the Premier League's middle reaches are to be compromised.

"We want to survive in the Premier League and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks," said their captain, Andy Griffin, in a clear statement of intent. "A lot of people don't appreciate the way we play but, as a club, you have to be selfish."

All Stoke really contributed here was the resilience, organisation and strength that curbed Wigan's attempts at introducing some football to a dire spectacle.

Many of Wigan's goal attempts were from distance or oblique angles and came after Emile Heskey's 400th full League appearance had been curtailed by a hamstring injury.

Stoke offered nothing in open play apart from a couple of promising breaks and their opponents wised up to the fact that it is best not to concede throw-ins to them in the final third. Wigan actually launched one such missile of their own through Maynor Figueroa, although Mario Melchiot's efforts to do the same from the right caused merriment among Stoke's fans when he was penalised for lifting his foot.

"We're a big side but felt very small compared to them," said Wigan's impressive central defender Titus Bramble. "They tend to bully teams and, if they get on top, their big guys can run all over you."

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Boyce, Bramble, Figueroa; Valencia, Palacios, Cattermole, Koumas; Heskey (Camara, 57), Zaki. Substitutes not used: Kingson (gk), Taylor, Brown, Scharner, Kilbane, De Ridder.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Griffin, Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham; Olofinjana (Whelan, 86), Diao, Amdy Faye (Cresswell, 84), Delap; Fuller, Sidibe (Kitson, 47). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Cort, Tonge, Wilkinson.

Referee: M Riley (Yorkshire).

Booked: Wigan Bramble. Stoke Shawcross, Fuller, Cresswell.

Man of the match: Valencia.

Attendance: 15,881.