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O'Neill sweating on Brown fitness

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill will make a late decision on Wes Brown ahead of tonight's Premier League trip to Wigan, with his injury problems showing little sign of abating.

The defender limped off with a groin problem 26 minutes into Sunday's 1-0 victory over league leaders Manchester City and is a major doubt, as are fellow centre-half Titus Bramble (Achilles/calf) and full-back Phil Bardsley (thigh).

Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet played Sunday's match with a face mask protecting the nose and eye-socket he fractured in October, with Keiren Westwood having pulled out because of the virus which also sidelined Kieran Richardson.

Wigan will be without their captain, Gary Caldwell, as he serves a one-match suspension. He is likely to be replaced by Steve Gohouri. Irish striker Conor Sammon will hope for a recall but Emmerson Boyce (hamstring) will have to wait a little longer.

James McCarthy hopes the Latics can show the same fighting spirit that helped them salvage a point from an entertaining draw with Stoke on New Year's Eve, fighting back from 2-1 down in the final moments despite being a man light following the sending-off of Caldwell.

The Irish international said: "To come back in the fashion we did against Stoke shows how much we've come along in 2011. There's a real togetherness in the squad with a strong belief.

"Sunderland's going to be another really tough game -- they've picked up a lot of points since Martin O'Neill took charge.

"We went up there just a few weeks ago and thankfully came away with the three points, so they'll be looking for a bit of revenge and we'll certainly be ready for it, hoping to start 2012 in the best possible way."

The Britannia Stadium was a fitting place to end 2011 for Wigan, who secured their Premier League status on the final day of last season with a 1-0 win at Stoke. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent