Feelgood factor back for Villa.
Wigan were able to welcome back long-term injury victim James McCarthy into the starting line-up, while the visitors handed debuts to both defender Nathan Baker and midfielder Jean Makoun, as they looked to build on their weekend victory against Manchester City.
In a surprising move, both managers handed their respective captain’s armbands to two players who have been linked with moves away from their clubs, with Charles N’Zogbia handed the skipper’s role for the home side, while Ashley Young received the armband for Aston Villa.
In front of a healthy and noisy crowd at the D.W. Stadium both sides started well, looking to go for the goals that have been missing over the recent weeks and has seen them struggle in the lower half of the Premier League.
The home side were the first to go close when Franco Di Santo got his head to the end of a cross from the right hand side, but unfortunately for the striker his effort went just wide of Brad Friedel’s left hand post.
Two minutes later came the first chance of the game for Villa’s £18m hitman Darren Bent, as the former Sunderland striker got on the end of a long free kick, but he could not find a way past Ali Al Habsi in the home goal.
The visitors continued to press forward and should have gone into the lead when Stewart Downing received a ball from Young on the right side of the penalty area, but his shot at the near post was saved by Al Habsi and the rebound from Young was also turned away by the on-loan Bolton keeper.
On the quarter hour mark McCarthy raced down the right, before finding N’Zogbia, who then passed the ball towards Hugo Rodallega just inside the box. Friedel managed to come to the rescue by saving the shot from the striker easily.
Bent then had another chance for Villa, when he was put clean through by Young, but Al Habsi raced off his line in order to make sure that his side stayed level.
Midway through the half, McCarthy made a run down the middle of the park, that looked like he hadn’t been away, as the former Hamilton Accies midfielder made kept the ball in the air before finding Rodallega, who was unlucky not to find a finish.
For the rest of the half, the game reminded mostly in the middle of the park, with both sides finding to find a final ball that would have helped them gain a vital edge going into the half time break.
The visitors came out of the traps after the half time break, as Young made his way from the halfway line before striking from the edge of the box, with Al Habsi making a superb save and giving a corner to Aston Villa.
The corner resulted in James Collins getting a header which was deflected for another one. The second effort was to prove more fruitful for the visitors as Carlos Cuellar got his head to the ball and as Al Habsi made the save, Gabriel Agbonlahor managed to poke the ball home from close in to give Aston Villa the lead.
That goal startled the home side as Rodallega made his way forward, getting off a shot that was comfortably save by Friedel to keep his side ahead.
On the hour mark Villa got their second goal of the game as Hendry Thomas brought down Young at the corner of the area, with the winger seemingly going nowhere. The Aston Villa skipper picked himself up and struck the ball pass Al Habsi, to the delight of the visiting fans behind the goal.
Gerard Houllier’s side could have had a third goal minutes later, as Young managed to get on the end of a ball played by Agbonlahor, that was missed by Steven Caldwell in the Wigan defense. But fortunately for the Scottish defender, Al Habsi was there, once again to keep Villa from scoring another goal.
That effort seemed to take the stream out of the Wigan support, as they started to depart the D.W. Stadium, with their side looking like they were going to slump to their tenth defeat in the last 11 games this season.
But their side continued to press forward in search of a goal to get them back into the game, but N’Zogbia could not find a way past Friedel in the Aston Villa goal, with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
With just over ten minutes to go Wigan found a way back into the game as McCarthy hit a powerful drive from 25 yards out. His shot was deflected by Collins and went by Friedel, who had went the other way and into the back of the net.
A minute later the home side could have been level as Rodallega had a chance which was saved by Friedel. Then Di Santo had a chance as a corner came in from the right, with the striker getting a flick on the ball, but Friedel was up to the challenge.
Martinez decided to go for the jugular, as he brought on striker Callum McManaman for goalscorer McCarthy, in search of the equalizer that would help Wigan in the relegation dog fight that they are currently a part of.
Ben Watson, who had came on as a substitute was the next to have a strike on goal, but he couldn't find a way by Friedel, who helped keep his side ahead and claim all three points.
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