In a heart-stopping encounter Wigan secured a crucial victory in their fight against relegation when they overcame West Bromwich Albion 3-2 at the Hawthorns. The Latics needed an away victory if they were to have any hope of retaining their Premier League status and in a tremendously exciting high tempo game they came away with the three points required.
West Brom had scored first through Shane Long before Arouna Kone headed an equaliser. Early in the second half the Baggies had regained the lead through Gareth McAuley’s header before substitute James McArthur’s diving header levelled the scores. But with 10 minutes remaining Callum McManaman scored the winner after great work by Shaun Maloney.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez shuffled his pack following a series of injuries to key players with Ben Watson coming into midfield and Ronnie Stam in defence.
Wigan started nervously, obviously well aware of the high stakes resting on the game. West Brom however looked like a side who were confident top half of the table and who were not going to allow Wigan the points they so desperately needed.
Arouna Kone tested Ben Foster early on, with a long-range effort but it was the Baggies who took the lead on 29 minutes. Paul Scharner pushed forward for Wigan but lost the ball when in possession and the Baggies counter attacked quickly with Marcus Rosenberg who outstripped Ben Watson for pace and the Swedish forward crossed for Shane Long to score at the back post.
Wigan look rattled by the goal but they continued to play their passing game and the good work soon paid dividends. On 39 minutes Shaun Maloney, despite being fouled by Billy Jones, played a sharp pass to Jean Beausejour and the Chilean’s pinpoint cross found Kone who headed past a helpless Ben Foster.
The teams went in level at half time, but Roberto Martinez would not have been happy with Wigan’s first half performance and early in the second half things got worse when the Baggies took the lead again.
Kone was at fault when he completely lost McAuley at Graham Dorrans’s free-kick, and the West Brom defender headed comfortably past Joel Robles.
The setback persuaded the Wigan manager that it was time for a tactical change with Jordi Gomez and Ronnie Stam being replaced by Roman Golobart and James McArthur, and within a minute of the change McArthur had equalised. Shaun Maloney curled a superb cross to the back post and the Scottish midfielder was in the perfect position as he dived to head home.
Man of the Match Maloney was instrumental in all three Wigan goals. The final goal coming with ten minutes of normal time remaining.
The creative Scot jinked his way past Billy Jones and into the West Brom area before making his way to the by-line and pulling the ball back to McManaman who scored from close range. The team and fans were ecstatic, but could they hold on for all three points?
In the dying minutes the Baggies had two shouts for penalties when Emmerson Boyce appeared to handle and substitute Roger Espinoza blocked Jones but the referee Lee Probert waved away appeals on both occasions. Robles made a brilliant two-fisted diving save to deny Dorrans, before McArthur headed off the line with only seconds remaining.
There was huge relief amongst the Wigan players, management and fans at full-time. The 1200 ‘Believers’ in the Smethwick Road End had roared on their team throughout and there were jubilant scenes as the Latics fans celebrated with the players.
In a pulsating end-to-end game it was Wigan’s undeniable spirit that got them through. The result was a huge leap forward in their battle for survival. But they must do it all again on Tuesday night at home to Swansea City.