Sunderland 1 - 0 WiganKO: Sat Sep 29 15:00:00 BST 2012 Ground: Stadium of Light
Referee: H Webb
Premier League Preview: Sunderland v Wigan
Sunderland will be looking to pick up a first league win of the season against a Wigan side determined to get back on track.
The Black Cats have made a solid start to the campaign as they remain unbeaten, having drawn all four of their matches to date, but they will want to begin climbing the table.
They came close to picking up three points at West Ham last weekend, only to be pegged back by Kevin Nolan's last-minute equaliser.
Martin O'Neill will be stressing the importance of staying focused right to the final whistle against a Wigan side beneath them only on goal difference.
Roberto Martinez has admitted that his players have struggled since the international break earlier in September, having begun the season in positive fashion.
The Latics were defeated 4-0 by Manchester United a fortnight ago and went down to a 2-1 loss at home to Fulham last weekend to slip closer to the relegation zone.
There were positives to take from a 4-1 win at West Ham in the Capital One Cup, though, and Martinez will now be aiming to push on at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland boss O'Neill will make a late decision on winger Adam Johnson ahead of the clash with Wigan.
The 25-year-old was used as a substitute in the 2-0 Capital One Cup victory at MK Dons on Tuesday evening after recovering from a thigh problem, but did not train on Thursday and will be assessed again before kick-off even though fresh scans showed no further damage.
Defender Carlos Cuellar and midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who both missed the cup game with hamstring injuries, have returned to training and could figure, but skipper Lee Cattermole starts a three-match ban following the fifth red card of his Black Cats career and Phil Bardsley (ankle) and Wes Brown (knee) are still short of match-fitness.
Martinez revealed before the match against West Ham that places in the Wigan starting XI were up for grabs, and he will have been delighted with the response from some of his fringe players.
Mauro Boselli will certainly be in contention after netting twice in midweek, while the likes of Ryo Miyaichi and Callum McManaman will also be hoping to feature.
Antolin Alcaraz is not quite ready to return in defence following a groin injury, while the game is expected to come too soon for striker Franco Di Santo (calf).
- The Black Cats have scored four goals from just six shots on target this season, with striker Steven Fletcher netting all four of his attempts on target.
- Sunderland are the only team in the top flight without a single headed attempt at goal this season.
- Wigan have just four points so far, their lowest haul after five matches in any of their eight Premier League seasons, joint-equal with 2010-11.
Sunderland 1 - 0 Wigan: Steven Fletcher's Scoring Run Continues
Sunderland recorded their first Premier League victory of the season thanks to Steven Fletcher's second half winner against 10-man Wigan.
The in-form striker grabbed his fifth goal in four matches to hand Martin O'Neil his first victory at the Stadium of Light since March.
The 25-year-old turned James McClean's 51st-minute cross-shot past keeper Ali Al Habsi to win a match of little quality.
The Latics had Jordi Gomez sent-off the field just two minutes into the second half for a dangerous looking challenge on Danny Rose and the 10-men struggled to restore parity from then on.
Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill will have been delighted to see his team end a 12-game wait for a league victory dating back to last season, but it might have been very different had it not been for Gomez's lack of discipline and keeper Simon Mignolet.
The Belgium international pulled off vital first-half saves from James McCarthy and Arouna Kone to keep the visitors at bay as the home side struggled to find any real rhythm.
However, the sending-off gave them fresh impetus and they never looked like surrendering their lead.
The game represented a contest between a club with no Premier League win in a dozen attempts and another with just one this season, and the 37,742 spectators who attended perhaps should not have expected a thriller.
Sunderland were boosted by the return of England winger Adam Johnson, who had passed a late fitness test on his thigh injury, but deprived of the services of skipper Lee Cattermole following his midweek dismissal.
Cattermole's absence proved key before the break as Sebastian Larsson and Jack Colback struggled to get to grips with McCarthy and Shaun Maloney, who combined well with Kone and Gomez to stretch the home defence repeatedly.
Indeed, the visitors could have been ahead with just four minutes gone when Republic of Ireland international McCarthy was allowed to waltz through a statuesque Black Cats defence, only to see his left-foot shot blocked by Mignolet.
From the resulting corner, the ball was cleared only as far as Gomez on the edge of the box, and he blasted a volley over.
Mignolet came to the rescue once again with 15 minutes on the clock when Jean Beausejour crossed from the left to pick out Ivorian at the far post.
He seemed certain to score, but Mignolet somehow managed to bundle his effort from point-blank range around the post.
For their part, Sunderland created little of note with in-form striker Fletcher feeding off scraps for long periods with wide-men Johnson and McClean unable to provide him with any meaningful supply.
However, they came close to taking the lead with 28 minutes played when Sebastian Larsson's free-kick from the left evaded attackers and defenders alike as it sped across the penalty area before being hacked off the line by Ivan Ramis.
But the half finished as it had started with Wigan threatening once again two minutes before the whistle when McCarthy once again made the most of the time and space he was afforded to send a long-range effort inches wide with Mignolet diving desperately to his left.
Roberto Martinez will no doubt have been happy as his side returned to the dressing room, but his mood will have changed markedly within two minutes of the restart.
There seemed to be little danger as left-back Danny Rose picked up possession on halfway, but Gomez leapt into an ugly challenge to leave the Sunderland man in a heap and referee Howard Webb with little option to produce a red card.
The home side made their numerical advantage count with four minutes when McClean broke into the box and appeared to drag his shot across the face of goal.
Whatever his intention, the ball fell perfectly for Fletcher, who swept it home without a second thought to break the deadlock.
O'Neill's men were suddenly re-energised and immediately set about the task of killing the game off with Stephane Sessegnon forcing Ali Al Habsi into a 54th-minute save before Craig Gardner blasted over from long range.
Martinez sent on striker Franco di Santo for Maloney on the hour, but the game was rapidly slipping from his side's grasp.
Neither side was able to exert any measure of control as time ran down, but Sunderland held out in what was an untidy conclusion to claim three valuable points.
Man of the match:
In a poor contest, it's hats off to Steven Fletcher who was johnny on the spot as he tucked away his fifth goal in four matches on his 100th league appearance.
Goal of the match:
The Black Cats' number 26 slotted away a flowing move which involved Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean. What Scotland would do for a striker like him in their side!
Moment of the match:
Had to be when referee Howard Webb showed a straight red card to Jordi Gomez for a dangerous studs up challenge on Danny Rose.
Save of the match:
Wigan could have been ahead at the break if it wasn't for Simon Mignolet, who produced a world class save to deny Arouna Kone from point-blank range.
Stat of the match:
Martin O'Neill had not enjoyed a league victory since March, a run of 12 games, his longest as a manager, until today!
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