Wigan Athletic 3 Charlton Athletic 0: Camara strikes hat-trick as Wigan emerge from wilderness

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The Independent Football

It just so happened that Wigan had their medical science graduate, Arjan de Zeeuw, back as captain yesterday. And this performance was certainly just what a qualified doctor like De Zeeuw might have ordered for himself, his team-mates and his manager. Any fears that Paul Jewell might be suffering from a bad side were swept away by a Henri Camara hat-trick and by the kind of vibrant all-round display that had Wigan scaling the Premiership heights until mid-November. After painful, losing encounters with five of the big-league big boys, Charlton's soothing visit to the JJB could hardly have come at a better time.

"We showed the strength and character we needed," manager Jewell reflected afterwards. But for his Charlton counterpart, Alan Curbishley, it is time to go back to the drawing board after a dismal sixth defeat in seven matches. It was an accident waiting to happen for his team, who were a shambolic mess from first to last. Even after the final whistle, their suffering was not over. "You don't know what you're doing," the Charlton fans chorused when the players sheepishly went to applaud their support.

"I take the responsibility; I pick the team," a grim-faced Curbishley said in the press room. "But, hold on, some of those players out there have got to take some responsibility and they didn't today. They've got to take the responsibility for the defending they're doing at the moment. It's not just the defensive unit, it's the whole team. All of them have got to have a long, hard look at themselves on the way home. I ain't going to tolerate defending like that."

And little wonder. Charlton's nominal defending was intolerable from the moment Luke Young stood back and admired Lee McCulloch's footwork in fastening on to a ninth minute throw-in from the left by Leighton Baines. McCulloch fired a right-footed drive off Dean Kiely's crossbar but Camara was granted the time and space to drill home a low shot.

It should have 2-0 within three minutes, but when Jimmy Bullard released Camara on the right, the Senegal striker chose to dribble himself into a cul-de-sac rather than square the ball to the unmarked Jason Roberts. Still, the confidence was flooding through the Wigan ranks, with the hyperactive Bullard driving them relentlessly forward. It took a desperate goalmouth block by Young to prevent Bullard from burying a low Camara cross and the ubiquitous Wigan midfielder also had Kiely at full stretch with a long-range drive.

Charlton were simply desperate, though Darren Bent did force a fine reflex save from Mike Pollitt in the first-half. It might have been different had Bent fooled the officials when he threw himself down in the box without any contact from Pollitt. But Wigan were in the comfort zone from the 51st minute when De Zeeuw hoisted the ball upfield, and Roberts flicked on a header for Camara to poke a foot between the dithering Kiely and Hermann Hreidarsson.

His third goal soon arrived, courtesy of more comic capers in the Charlton defence. After flicking the ball over Danny Murphy on the edge of the area, Camara had Kiely and Young flapping at one another in confusion before he bundled in his hat-trick clincher. It was the first by a Wigan player in the top-flight and should help sustain Jewell when his record buy flies to Egypt for the African Nations Cup next month. Wigan's Premiership place could be assured by then. Charlton's, however, might be in some peril.