Saturday 17 March 2018

McCarthy shows true scope of his potential in vital Wigan triumph

McCarthy 60, N’Zogbia 73

David Instone

A GAME of 11 cards, bewildering aberrations, a saved penalty and sundry other goalkeeping heroics ended with Wigan Athletic looking considerably better equipped for the survival battle ahead than Wolves following their first Premier League meeting at Molineux.

Wigan not only took maximum points for the first time since late November and turned Gary Caldwell’s arrival in a brittle defence into a rare clean sheet, but their finesse and cutting edge were too much for Wolves.

Notwithstanding Marcus Hahnemann’s emergence as the victor of an afternoon-long duel with Hugo Rodallega, Wolves had no one to match the Colombian for threat and no answer to the trickery of Charles N’Zogbia. It was fitting N’Zogbia should provide the second goal, his elegant run and finish extending a hot personal streak and prompting his manager, Roberto Martinez, to make flattering comparisons with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

On their left wing, another promising career is in the making. James McCarthy spurned Wolves last summer to move to the DW Stadium and reminded his namesake what he missed out on by opening the scoring. The Irish underage star, in his first Premier League start, had also induced from his marker Richard Stearman the shirt-tug in first-half stoppage time that the Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy, termed “not the sanest thing I have ever seen”.

That the challenge occurred in the area while the ball was bouncing out of play made it reckless enough. The fact Stearman had already been booked underlined it as an act of utter madness from which the dismissed defender was temporarily spared further shame by Hahnemann’s outstanding penalty save from Rodallega.

Wigan’s Honduran midfielder Hendry Thomas was culpable, too, following a ridiculous lunge at Stephen Ward in Wolves’ left-back position. He had also been booked and will have been relieved that the second goal came early in the contest’s subsequent 10 v 10 finale.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Stearman, Craddock, Mancienne, Ward; Foley, Henry, Milijas (Surman, 82), Jarvis (Jones, h-t); Ebanks-Blake ( Iwelumo, 68), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Hennessey (gk), Elokobi, Berra, Vokes.

Wigan Athletic (4-1-4-1): Kirkland (gk); Melchiot, Caldwell, Bramble, Figueroa; Thomas; N’Zogbia, Scharner (Gomez, 47), Diame, McCarthy (Sinclair, 90); Rodallega. Substitutes not used: Amaya, Watson, Scotland, Boyce, Stojkovic (gk).

Referee: H Webb (Yorkshire).

Booked: Wolves Stearman, Henry, Ward, Doyle; Wigan Thomas, N’Zogbia, Gomez.

Sent off: Stearman (46), Thomas (67).

Man of the match: Hahnemann.

Attendance: 27,604.

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