Wigan Athletic 1 Tottenham 2: Davids off mark as Wigan suffer another capital loss

Tottenham show steely streak to see off Jewell's side
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The Independent Football

Wigan Athletic are yet to lose in the Premiership except when playing against teams from London. Yesterday, Tottenham Hotspur followed the example of Chelsea, Charlton and Arsenal in becoming the fourth team from the capital to beat Paul Jewell's team.

In what was the first League meeting between the two sides, victory would have given Wigan the best start to a Premiership season by a newly promoted club, beating Nottingham Forest's record.

However, a goal from Robbie Keane, his 49th for the club, and an Edgar Davids strike gave Spurs a first win in five games and took them within a point of yesterday's opponents. Lee McCulloch's 89th-minute goal was only a consolation.

For the most part it was an even, physical game that the visitors only just deserved to win. In short, it was the kind of contest they have often lost in recent years. But, under Martin Jol, Spurs are a different proposition, as evidenced by an away record in the Premiership that already includes four wins and only one defeat.

"It was about the result," said Jol. "It was a difficult game against typical English opponents. It's not easy to win here but we had the quality to do it. We matched them for effort at the start and we had that specific quality from Robbie and from Edgar to win the game."

As for Wigan, this was their second straight loss, both at the JJB Stadium. The run of six successive wins that preceded the defeat to Arsenal and propelled them to second in the League suddenly seems a long time ago.

They remain well placed for now but with three successive away games ahead - against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United - come Christmas they are likely to have slipped down the table.

Despite Wigan's best efforts yesterday, it was significant that Paul Robinson, the Tottenham goalkeeper, had little to do before McCulloch's late reply.

A succession of early corners had signalled Wigan's intent. That positive beginning, though, was wasted when Arjan De Zeeuw, arguably Wigan's best player this season, made a horrible mess of dealing with Teemu Tainio's hopeful long ball down the middle. Misjudging the bounce on a skiddy surface, De Zeeuw allowed the ball to skid under his chest. Keane nipped in ahead of Mike Pollitt, touched the ball beyond the keeper and side-footed into the net.

"We all make mistakes and Arjan made one there," said Jewell. "We've got to make less of them because at this level you get punished for them."

Undeterred, Wigan continued to attack with purpose. Another corner saw McCulloch head just over from eight yards, while no fewer than three Graham Kavanagh drives flew just wide or over the crossbar.

Spurs were less than impressed with Mike Riley, the referee. And when Stéphane Henchoz's arms prevented Keane from shooting cleanly from close range, the former Liverpool defender must have been close to conceding a penalty.

Wigan's best chance of the opening period was a well-worked free-kick that set up Leighton Baines. His shot looked destined for the far corner until deflecting off his colleague, McCulloch, and flying wide.

Spurs were far from coherent during large periods and with Mido a virtual passenger, they were unable to maintain attacks beyond a couple of passes. But with Ledley King gradually eliminating the threat of Jason Roberts, and Davids prepared to fight for possession whenever necessary, Wigan were not exactly fluent either.

The suspicion remained that the longer the game went on, the more space Spurs would get on the counter-attack, particularly when Jewell sent on a third striker. So it proved. With 13 minutes remaining, the indefatigable Davids was allowed to carry the ball forward from the halfway line before shooting left-footed past Pollitt from 15 yards for his first Premiership goal.

Wigan were still not finished as McCulloch slid in at the far post with two minutes remaining. Spirit and determination are not among their shortcomings.

"I can't be too critical of the players because they kept going right to the end," said Jewell. "The whole team's been outstanding all season and just because we've lost to Arsenal and Spurs doesn't make it a crisis.

"I would have been doing cartwheels down Wigan high street at the start of the season if you'd have told me we'd be third in the table."