Wigan Athletic 0 Portsmouth 2: Pompey power puts pressure on Hutchings' reign

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Chris Hutchings does not have far to look to appreciate the problems that can come with promotion from the ranks, and when Wigan followed the lead of their neighbours Bolton in handing the reins to their departed manager's assistant, bets were being struck locally over who would be the first to fall.

There is no suggestion that Hutchings is in danger of going the same way as Sammy Lee, who faced an impossible burden of expectation after taking over from Sam Allardyce. A quarter of the way in to Wigan's first season post-Paul Jewell, however, and a run of four straight defeats has raised inevitable fears.

Hutchings has been unlucky, guiding his team to a bright start with three wins and a draw in the opening five matches, only to be undermined by simultaneous injuries to key players – the most damaging to Emile Heskey. Hutchings remains adamant that with a full squad available Wigan are more than capable of finishing above the bottom three, but after yesterday he must hope their return will come sooner rather than later.

At least he had Denny Land-zaat back, after a seven-week absence, to add craft in midfield, but it was not enough to prevent Portsmouth taking the points with two goals inside the final 10 minutes to complete four wins in a row for Harry Redknapp's team, who stay ahead of Blackburn and Chelsea in the table.

Benjani Mwaruwari put Portsmouth on course for victory with his seventh goal of the season before Glen Johnson killed any hopes of a Wigan revival with his first as a Pompey player. Given the dearth of chances before that, the Wigan midfielder Paul Scharner had particular cause to regret the one he squandered in only the second minute, when he headedagainst a post following a free- kick delivered by Landzaat.

"It would have been a nice start if that had gone in, but it wasn't to be," said Hutchings. "I thought we kept Mwaruwari quiet, but twice in the last 10 minutes we let the ball be played into the box too easily. It was not good enough."

Portsmouth, with Sol Campbell a rock at the back, managed only one shot on target in the first half and did not threaten better until Sulley Muntari's free- kick clipped the outside of a post after 63 minutes. But by then they had taken a grip on midfield, closing out the space that had allowed Wigan to shade possession previously and being less wasteful with the ball. With Mwaruwari in such compelling form their manager, Harry Redknapp, was proved right, having told his players at half-time that the game was theirs to win.

Ultimately, their own self-belief grew as Wigan's concentration began to falter. What will have irked Hutchings most is that his defenders went to sleep, allowing Mwaruwari to ghost into the penalty area unchecked before appearing in front of Chris Kirkland on the end of Muntari's cross, which he steered into the net almost casually.

If that were not annoying enough for the Wigan manager,he would have been less impressed still when Johnson was allowed to cut in from the right, leaving Titus Bramble flat-footed, before tucking the ball wide of Kirkland to complete the home side's misery and guarantee Portsmouth's best winning run for five years.

"There were not many chances, but I would have been disappointed with 0-0," said Redknapp. "I knew the game was there for the taking if we could pass with more quality."