Newcastle UNited 2 Wigan Athletic 2

FIRST the good news for those of a black and white persuasion.

Newcastle United possessed the fighting spirit required to avoid a third successive home defeat, whichwould have increased concerns around St James’ Park.

Now the bad. Any more home performances like this, on the back of three defeats in four Premier League matches, including two at home to Stoke City and Blackpool, and the Magpies will have a genuine fight against relegation on their hands.

There have been promising aspects and plenty of reasons to be encouraged from the opening two months of the season, but weaknesses and cracks are emerging that need addressing by manager Chris Hughton.

The first half display against Wigan was the most worrying yet, highlighting how improvements are needed if a more damaging slide down the topflight table is to be avoided.

Once Ali Al-Habsi, the Latics goalkeeper, had got down well to hold a shot that was stabbed in his direction from Andy Carroll after 15 minutes Newcastle lost their way.

Carroll and Peter Lovenkrands, handed a start at the expense of his frustrated and dropped captain Kevin Nolan, were starved of any real service. Only Jonas Gutierrez of the four midfielders was capable of creating anything, while defensively Newcastle looked a shambles.

It did improve markedly after the restart, but by that time Newcastle’s disjointed and sluggish start had basically gifted Wigan a two-goal advantage at the break.

On the two occasions Franco di Santo had sent deliveries in to the Newcastle penalty area, Wigan had no right to score.

That, though, is exactly what they did. Twice in a little more than 100 first half seconds.

It was Charles N’Zogbia, back at St James’ Park for the first time since his departure in January last year, who capitalised on the sloppiness on both occasions.

First his diminutive frame was somehow allowed to head di Santo’s delivery into Tim Krul’s far corner by a static James Perch and Mike Williamson, who both stood by him.

Then the Frenchman added a second after Joey Barton lost out to James McCarthy in the middle and Perch was caught out of position high up the pitch.

Di Santo again picked out N’- Zogbia, who took a touch before unleashing a rasping drive into Krul’s top right corner, despite Williamson’s last-ditch rush to block.

N’Zogbia, who left under a storm after demanding a move following Joe Kinnear’s mispronunciation of his name, had silenced the Newcastle supporters who had given him a rough time.

He had also offered a further reminder of his value to Wigan, with the £9m-rated winger interesting Bayern Munich, Sunderland and Tottenham.

“He understands why he would get a bad reception, but he’s got experience and in a way he sees it as a football compliment,”

said Wigan manager Martinez.

“We knew how the fans would react and he relished the challenge. This was a game that he clearly enjoyed.”

Had it not been for Gutierrez, Newcastle would never have been able to force their way back into the match.

Following the confirmation that Hatem Ben Arfa will be missing for six months, Dan Gosling is weeks away from recovery and Wayne Routledge struggling for form, a lot of the attacking play will rest on the Argentine’s shoulders.

And, while he clearly has his shortcomings in the final third, his unpredictability means he is more often than not Newcastle’s most creative player.

That was certainly the case against Wigan. He had threatened to make an impact and then, following Shola Ameobi’s introduction from the bench, Gutierrez’s time arrived.

Eighteen minutes from the end he picked out Ameobi, who had worked ahead of his marker and headed down beyond Al- Habsi. Even then, though, there was still a lack of impetus until the closing stages.

Carroll had wasted a couple of decent opportunities, before Gutierrez floated over a sweet corner with 3mins 20secs of the four minutes of injury-time played. Carroll did well to turn goalwards and Fabricio Coloccini was on hand to power the equaliser past Al-Habsi.

While the rest of his teammates went crazy on the pitch, Gutierrez charged towards the dug-out and celebrated passionately in front of the coaching staff.

“I think the celebration was just delight,” said Hughton, who named him on the bench in the home defeat to Stoke City.

“My impression was that he is just ecstatic that we were able to get back into the game.

“If you look at the emotions of him and Colocinni when we scored that is what it meant to the team. Points in this division are valuable and to come back and get the point at that stage of the game showed what it meant to everybody.

“Jonas has certainly showed he is the sort of player who can break down resolute defences.

I think his form has got better.

I rested him at Everton and I would say since then he has been very good.

“One thing with Jonas is that you will always get a committed player, a player who absolutely loves playing.”

Having witnessed his team somehow come back from two goals down to avoid a fourth defeat in five Premier League matches, Hughton accepts he needs to find improvements.

He said: “There are concerns.

That we conceded two very poor goals, we allowed them too much possession and they showed some quality. They regained possession very well and passed it very well.

“We know that we will have to pick up a good percentage of points against this group of teams who we can expect to be around us.”

Either side of a Carling Cup date with Arsenal, Newcastle travel to West Ham next Saturday before taking on rivals Sunderland at St James’ Park on October 31. Those two matches could be pivotal in the Magpies’ season.

Match facts


0-1: N’Zogbia (22, allowed to head beyond Krul, despite the attention of Williamson and Perch);

0-2: N’Zogbia (23, struck sweetly into Krul’s top right after given the freedom by Perch and a Barton error)

1-2: Ameobi: (72, arrived to meet Gutierrez’s centre with a perfect low header)

2-2: Coloccini (90, his header deep into stoppage time had too much for Al-Habsi)

Bookings: Tiote (55, retaliation); Figueroa (85, unsporting behaviour); Carroll (89, unsporting behaviour)

Referee: Mark Halsey (Bolton) - angered the fans with some decisions, but he is a referee so expects some abuse, however harsh 7

Attendance: 44,415

Entertainment: ✰✰✰


5 Krul: His handling was fine but will be disappointed to have been beaten at the near post by N’Zogbia’s well-struck second.

3 Perch: Caught out of position and flat footed for both of Wigan’s goals and looked short of confidence

5 Williamson: Culpable along with Perch for N’Zogbia’s first goal, not too bad after that

7 Coloccini: The pick of the defenders, even before he arrived in the area to power the equaliser

5 Enrique: Sent over a number of deliveries but was never that impressive

5 Guthrie: He was never able to reproduce the precision he had with his deliveries in last season’s promotion campaign

5 Barton: Improved in the second half after a disappointing opening period, in which he cost the Magpies a second goal

4 Tiote: His worst display since his arrival, just looked uncomfortable in possession

7 GUTTIEREZ: The only Newcastle player who looked capable of creating anything

5 Lovenkrands: Disappointed on his return to the forward line, although he was hardly blessed with opportunities

6 Carroll: Failed to shine on his first appearance after signing a new contract, but still had part to play in equaliser


Ameobi (for Lovenkrands 60): His introduction and presence sparked Newcastle into life 6

Routledge (for Guthrie 65): Unable to have the impact needed and looks short of confidence at the moment 5

Ranger (for Perch 89)

(not used): Taylor, Smith, Kadar, Soderberg (gk).

WIGAN ATHLETIC (4-5-1): Al-Habsi 6; Boyce 6, Caldwell 5, Alcaraz 7, Figueroa 6; Stam 5 (Cleverley 79), McCarthy 5, Gomez 5, Thomas 6, N’ZOGBIA 7 (Diame 90); Di Santo 6 (Rodallega 66). Subs (not used): Kirkland, Watson, Boselli, Moses.


JONAS Gutierrez – N’Zogbia struck twice, but the Argentine was the brightest player on the pitch for most of the match.