It took the Grenadine striker past Gary Breen swiftly enough for the Sunderland defender to mistime his tackle and earn Wigan a penalty with just 14 seconds on the clock. Roberts could afford to check his stride before converting the kick, and 90 minutes later the Latics had their first points to go alongside their first goal as a Premiership side.
Not that the victory was achieved as simply as that. Jewell's side lived dangerously on their lead against the club promoted ahead of them at the end of the past Championship season. Still, at the final blast of Steve Bennett's whistle Wigan had their historic win and Sunderland were left with another depressing loss in the top flight. Their losing streak in the Premiership now stands at 19 matches - four from this season and 15 from their relegation campaign of three terms ago. The Black Cats had little luck yesterday and, unfortunately for them, the answer to where Mick McCarthy and his men go from here is Stamford Bridge on 10 September.
"The start couldn't have been any worse for us," the Sunderland manager lamented. "It was lousy, and it was the difference between the two teams. My first reaction was it was a bit soft, but we shouldn't have been in that position in the first place. I don't think my players have had their just rewards."
Jewell acknowledged as much, conceding: "We didn't have a lot of quality at times, but we had guts and determination." With a view to improving that quality, the Wigan manager has made offers for two players to add to his squad; "one for €5m [£3.4m], one €7m [£4.8m]," he said. On yesterday's evidence, they will be needed in the long campaign ahead.
As for McCarthy, he has already made 11 signings since the end of last season, and the turnover in his squad was reflected yesterday with eight changes from the XI who won at Wigan in the Championship in April. His new-look line-up were handicapped from the start, though, thanks to Breen's less than sharp reaction as Roberts sped past him in the opening seconds. It was still a close call, though the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Roberts gave no margin for error with his kick, wrong-footing Kelvin Davis to claim the 100th League goal of his career and Wigan's first in England's big league.
It was a big blow to Sunderland, but they were not slow to recover. Indeed, they would have been level inside the fifth minute had Stéphane Henchoz not cleared an Alan Stubbs header off the line. To their credit, the Wearsiders played some fine attacking football before the interval, the dynamic Dean Whitehead launching a series of swift, purposeful breaks from central midfield, and the will-o'-the-wisp Andy Welsh always threatening on the left. Try as they did, though, they could not quite break through. Mike Pollitt thwarted Whitehead on two occasions and also saved impressively from Jon Stead.
Having spent much of the first half in a state of agitation at pitchside, Jewell clearly imparted a few home truths during the interval. Wigan had a measure of steel about them in the second half. They also had some adventure, Leighton Baines narrowly missing the target with an ambitious chip from deep on the left.
Sunderland struggled to regain their momentum, but still had their chances, courtesy of the outstanding Whitehead. The indefatigable midfielder had Pollitt in a flap with a shot from wide on the right and also fed Stead for a low drive that was smartly smothered by Wigan's veteran keeper. At the other end, Alan Mahon had a shot deflected on to a post in the final minute. It was a solitary crumb of consolation for McCarthy and his points-starved Sunderland.Reuse content