Wigan pay high price for Highbury advantage

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The Independent Online

Paul Jewell's decision to buck the trend in the Carling Cup and field his strongest possible team in Tuesday's semi-final against Arsenal may have been rewarded with a 1-0 lead ahead of the second-leg at Highbury, but the Wigan manager is now counting the cost of the victory with injuries to two players further weakening his already depleted squad.

David Connolly's hamstring injury and a groin strain suffered by Lee McCulloch have left Jewell admitting that he will be forced to secure reinforcements during the transfer window after seeing his options reduced to just 13 fit players for the Premiership meeting with West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

With the striker Henri Camara away with Senegal in the African Nations' Cup for the next three weeks at least and defenders Ryan Taylor, Leighton Baines and Emerson Thome all injured, Wigan's hopes of keeping pace with the top six of the Premiership are likely to be tested to the full in the coming weeks.

Jewell said yesterday: "It's like the walking wounded here at the moment. We did have 15 fit outfield players, but now it is 13 because David has no chance for Sunday and Lee would not be able to play if the match was tomorrow. We are really stretched and it just shows the need to try and bring some players in."

Jewell's sole acquisition to date during the transfer window, the Austrian midfielder Paul Scharner, marked his debut by scoring the winner against Arsenal. The £2.5m signing from Brann Bergen, an Arsenal fan, admits that he was surprised to be facing Arsène Wenger's team at the JJB. Scharner said: "If someone had said a couple of years ago that I'd be playing in a semi-final involving Arsenal, I would have dreamt it was for them, not against them, but I would also have told them they were crazy. The second leg will be the first time I have ever been to Highbury. Perhaps I should go down a day early to go on the tour."

Wenger has yet to guide Arsenal to the League Cup final in his 10 years at Highbury, but the midfielder Gilberto Silva remains confident that the Gunners can overturn the 1-0 deficit in the return game on 24 January.

He said: "We did not play to our best at Wigan and that's the reason we lost, but we have another chance. We're at home and when we play at Highbury we have a fantastic spirit in front of our own fans."