COVENTRY CITY 1-2 WIGAN ATHLETIC BY KEV MONKS
Coventry City put in a battling performance but were powerless to stop a wonder strike putting Wigan Athletic top of the league.
Micky Adams may only one change from the team that had won at Reading with Marcus Hall marking his return to his home city with a debut in place of Claus Jorgensen.
As Luke Steele and Richard Brush are injured, Scott Shearer is out on loan at Rushden and Jonny Tuffey was in Belfast on international duty with Northern Ireland U19's.
Wigan arrived at Highfield Road knowing that a win would put them top of the league and were able to field the division's top scorers in Nathan Ellington and West Brom reject Jason Roberts whose agent and uncle is none other than the legendary Cyrille Regis. They also included in goal, City reject John Filan who was described by a good friend of mine as "an embarrassment to his wife."
The visitors who had around 500 supporters with them (a figure quoted by local radio) which included a number who had been involved in trouble in town earlier in the day, were on the attack from the off forcing two early corners.
With only eight minutes gone,Wigan were ahead when Ellington played the ball upfield for Gary Teale to race through and drill a low shot from nine yards past Ian Bennett and into the net.
Things got worse for City ten minutes later when Richard Shaw limped off with a knee injury and Adams sent on Claus Jorgensen with Marcus Hall moving back into defence from a position on the left side of midfield.
Jorgensen had been on two minutes when he touched a ball which eventually fell for Trevor Benjamin. The former Northampton Town striker whom City have taken over his contract, got through the Wigan defence towards the East Stand and was tackled. He found McSheffrey, only for Gareth Whalley to bring him down. Referee Mr Beeby pointed to the penalty spot and Gary McSheffrey duly dispatched the penalty to draw Coventry level.
Jimmy Bullard, a player I rate as one of the best midfielders in the division, fired from a Nicky Eaden cross before Eaden delivered a lovely cross which Roberts played down for Gareth Whalley to hit a shot which Bennett got down to save.
With Jason Roberts being abused by the City fans every time he touched the ball, Filan got a hand to a well struck 32nd minute Richard Duffy shot from a Benjamin knock down following a free kick.
Michael Doyle swung Jorgensen's flag kick back in for Benjamin who thumped a shot against the foot of the post.
The battling spirit we know City have, was evident again in the 36th minute when Doyle created space to rifle a low shot from the edge of the box that Filan got down to. McSheffrey raced in and volleyed the ball towards the goal, only for Filan to make another terrific save to push the ball over for a corner.
As the snow flurries that had blighted the streets of Coventry today,continued apace, Adams was forced to make his second change of the half when Stuart Giddings who has been called for international duty with England U19's was stretchered off with what was later diagnosed as a torn hamstring four minutes from the end of normal time in the first half.
Andy Whing came on for the third Coventry kid on the pitch and went to right back with Duffy swapping flanks and just missed from a Jorgensen 43rd minute free kick.
Five minutes of time were added on and saw City win two corners plus some superb saving tackles form Marcus Hall.
Wigan started the second period as they had the first with Bennett saving a Bullard 25 yarder, only for City to clear and Stern John, who again displayed the sort of effort and commitment we want to see from the £250,000 buy from Birmingham City, won a corner.
The visitors were relying on the offside trap and some dubious tackling in order to stop City and Michael Doyle was the first name in Mr Beeby's book for what looked a pretty innocuous challenge compared to some that had gone on previously.
Things were very even but in the 67th minute, Wigan snatched what turned out to be a victory when Roberts knocked down for Nathan Ellington to superbly smash a right footed volley high into the net from the edge of area.
City stuck to their task winning two corners before Stephen Hughes came on for the industrious Isaac Osbourne in the 74th minute.
Stern John was causing the visiting defence problems and in the 76th minute,the Trinidad & Tobago international wriggled through only for Lee McCulloch to impede his path and drag him back and be cautioned for the offence.
The ability and neutrality of the referee and the assistant on the Sky Blue Stand side had been questioned by many of the City supporters in a crowd of 12,130 which included some from Northern Ireland and Denmark.
In the 88th minute,an appalling tackle on Andy Whing, as he advanced down the right wing, by McCulloch, resulted only in a free kick to City, rather than a red card for the Wigan midfielder.
Wigan had substitute Jason Jarrett cautioned deep in stoppage time for another trip on John which gave City a free kick some twenty five yards out.
Ian Bennett came up to offer some advice, but Jorgensen opted to take it and sent the kick agonisingly inches over the crossbar and Wigan held on to win.
The defeat and a 2-0 victory for Nottingham Forest means that a win over Stoke and a few more besides are something of a necessity.
HT CCFC 1-1 WAFC FT CCFC 1-2 WAFC
GOALS Gary Teale (8 mins)
Gary McSheffrey ( pen 20 mins)
Nathan Ellington (67)
Man Of The Match Marcus Hall won the votes from Richard Duffy
Bennett,Duffy, Hall,Williams,Shaw (Jorgensen 18),Giddings (Whing 41), Doyle,Osbourne (Hughes 74),McSheffrey,Benjamin,John. SNU Adebola,Barrett