Some said it was the prohibitive cost of away tickets at the JJB Stadium that accounted for Manchester City's modest level of support yesterday. A more likely explanation is that even a following as famously loyal and long-suffering as theirs have simply had enough of watching their team lose.
Wigan Athletic duly inflicted a 17th defeat in their last 21 away games - and a comprehensive one at that - after being handed a two-goal start inside the first four minutes. City have now earned only one point on their travels in five matches this season - and that thanks to a fortuitous equaliser deep into injury time at Goodison last month. Since last December they have won just one away game, at Villa Park in April.
By contrast, Wigan, who began the day on the cusp of the bottom three and without a win in six, were vibrant when attacking, with Antonio Valencia the star attraction. At the other end of the pitch Arjan De Zeeuw ensured there was never the slightest danger of Wigan squandering a lead as they had in three of their previous seven Premiership games.
"We've got to use this as a springboard," said Paul Jewell, the Wigan manager. "It was a great start and once the third goal went in it was game over. We did the things today that have made us hard to beat and nasty to play against over the past years."
There were 62 seconds on the clock when Emile Heskey put Wigan ahead. Emmerson Boyce's deflected cross looked innocuous until the 28-year-old produced the kind of finish he is sporadically capable of and that makes you wonder why his career scoring ratio is so distinctly average.
The second came when Josip Skoko, making his first appearance of the season, chipped a deep free-kick into the City penalty area. With no Wigan player in sight, a backtracking Richard Dunne inexplicably headed past Nicky Weaver.
The best City managed in return was a Bernardo Corradi header that looped over the crossbar. Typical of Corradi and Georgios Samaras' efforts was a passage of play so inept it was embarrassing to watch. Thanks to Leighton Baines' slip, Corradi found himself with space in the Wigan penalty area. He sliced his cross so badly that it became a pass to Samaras, arriving late from the left wing. Unmarked, the Greek's attempted half-volley barely trickled out of play for a goal kick.
In the second half, Stuart Pearce had little choice but to introduce Darius Vassell, out since August with a knee injury and only on the substitutes' bench due to City being without 11 senior players.
It made little difference as Wigan added their third and fourth goals. First Kevin Kilbane fed Baines and his cross allowed Henri Camara to take advantage of Stephen Jordan's dithering. Then Heskey's pass gave Valencia the chance to cap a fine performance with his first goal for the club. With over 20 minutes remaining, City's fans began to head for the exit. It was hard to blame them.
"You have to give yourself a platform away from home and we didn't do that," said Pearce. "One or two heads went down after the third goal, we lacked a touch of leadership, and it would have been nice if the younger boys had got a bit more support from the senior players."Reuse content