Premier League – Wigan see off Bolton
Ten-man Wigan took a big step toward securing their Premier League status for next season by beating Bolton Wanderers 1-0 in a heated encounter at the JJB Stadium.
The Latics were forced to play almost the entirety of the match at a numerical disadvantage after Jason Koumas was sent off just four minutes in for a potentially dangerous tackle on Gary Cahill.
Their spirit was undiminished though, and they went in 1-0 up at half-time thanks to a fine Emile Heskey volley.
Bolton put the hosts under pressure as they rained a succession of high balls into the area in the second half, and were left fuming as a string of penalty appeals for handball were turned down.
Their best chance from open play fell to Kevin Nolan, though he fired straight at Chris Kirkland, and Wigan went on to claim a victory that take them into 12th, six points clear of their embattled opponents.
No sooner had the Wigan fans taken their seats after kick-off, than they were up on their feet in fury after Koumas was given his marching orders for a poor challenge on Cahill. The Welshman’s studs certainly caught Cahill on the ankle, though the general feeling around the ground was one of shock that a red card had been produced.
Though now a man to the good, Bolton were unable to assert their authority over the home side, and indeed it was the Latics who remained the aggressors, with Cahill and Ricardo Gardner forced into blocks from Antonio Valencia, while Heskey headed just wide at the back post from Valencia’s cross.
Diouf’s temper saw him booked midway through the half, and his frustration summed up that of the Bolton team at their inability to get control of the game.
Wigan finally grabbed a deserved lead just after the half hour mark in a style that Bolton have become renowned for. Mario Melchiot hurled a long throw in to the near post, and Heskey held off his man before smashing a first-time volley past Ali Al-Habsi.
Bolton were stung into action, and huge penalty appeals went up from the travelling fans after Emerson Boyce unintentionally handled in the area, though referee Steve Tanner correctly waved play on.
Bolton’s frustration was then compounded when Diouf did have the ball in the back just before the break, only to see his effort disallowed for handball.
Perhaps keen not to see their most creative, though most volatile player sent off, Bolton replaced Diouf with Joey O’Brien at half-time, signalling their intentions to fling high balls into the Wigan area from all angles.
The tactic almost paid dividends instantly, with Kevin Davies and O’Brien both flicking a long ball on towards Nolan, who volleyed straight at Kirkland from just eight yards out.
Bolton had yet another handball appeal turned down on 57 minutes after Paul Scharner deflected the ball onto Boyce’s hand, though all those appeals were put firmly into the shade when Michael Brown appeared to block Nolan’s header on the goal-line with his arm ten minutes later. Bolton were incensed at the referee’s decision to play on, with Nolan pursuing the referee in a rage.
The Trotters appeared to be losing their rag as Gardner and substitute Gavin McCann were booked in quick succession, and Wigan began to regain their stranglehold on the game, with Wilson Palacios seeing a shot blocked and Heskey heading wide from 18 yards.
On the one occasion Bolton were able to find a way in behind the Wigan back line, Nolan was ruled offside after running onto Davies’s deft pass, while Davies himself saw a back post header cleared off the line by Scharner.
Wigan did well in keeping possession high up the pitch as the clock ticked down, but needed another stroke of fortune on the final whistle as Erik Edman headed off the line, and then survived yet another handball appeal, with Grzegorz Rasiak adjudged to have pushed him into the ball.
The result puts the Latics 12th – ahead of Middlesbrough on goal difference – while Bolton stay in the bottom three, one point behind 17th-placed Birmingham and with two points and a game in hand over second-bottom Fulham.