Outside of the top few teams most of the clubs in the Premier League are well matched and this game between the clubs in 14th and 15th positions threatened to be a closely fought affair. However, an early game changing decision by referee Mike Jones meant that a Newcastle win was rarely in doubt.
After starting positively Wigan had to face a set back after only 12 minutes when Maynor Figueroa was adjudged to have fouled Papiss Cisse in the box. From my perspective it appeared that two players were shoulder to shoulder with the Honduran defender making his physical presence felt and the Senegalese striker ensuring that he fell in the penalty box as most forwards will do nowadays. It was a marginal decision that could have gone either way but the referee decided it was a penalty and then compounded the verdict by sending off Figueroa and thereby giving Newcastle control of the game.
The current rules suggest that as Figueroa was the last man he should be dismissed but surely some appreciation of the margin involved should have meant that he remained on the pitch. Subsequent detailed analysis by Gary Neville on Sky television showed that it wasn’t a clear-cut penalty and in a straw poll of Sky viewers 70% thought it wasn’t a penalty.
If it wasn’t clear-cut, why did the referee Jones have to send off Figueroa, surely given the importance of the decision he should have used his discretion.
Demba Ba coolly converted the penalty despite a gallant attempt by Ali Al Habsi and it was only eight minutes later when Newcastle went further ahead. The Latics were still trying to re-organise following the dismissal of Figueroa when Davide Santon cut inside and released a powerful swerving shot which Al Habsi could only parry and Ba followed up to score. To all intents and purposes this sealed the three points for the home side.
Following the sending off, Jordi Gomez was sacrificed for the more combative James McArthur and at half time Captain Gary Caldwell on a fifth yellow card, was replaced by Adrian Lopez. The signs were not good for the second period, most Wigan fans must have been fearing a major onslaught by the Toon but it never materialised and the away team played the more measured football, spending most of the second half in the Newcastle half.
Despite Wigan’s positive play the home team were always dangerous on the break and they went further ahead on 71 minutes when Gael Bigirimana scored his first ever goal for Newcastle with a superb curling strike.
It was a brilliant effort by the Burundi born player but in truth the outcome of the game had been decided by the referee Mike Jones in the 12th minute.
Wigan are considering making an appeal against the sending off, but it is likely that they will be without both Figueroa and Gary Caldwell for Saturday’s crucial fixture against Queens Park Rangers. They will now go into this game without at least seven players due to injuries and suspensions. Lady Luck seems to have deserted the Latics, let’s hope she returns very soon.