No case for the defence
Monday 26/12/05 3pm
City were full of christmas benevolance during their first Premiership encounter with promoted Wigan. Despite taking a 2nd minute lead the defence put in probably its worst collective display since Stuart Pearce took charge. Sibierski opened the scoring for City on 2 minutes, justifying Stuart Pearce's decision to start with an unchanged team from the one that had beaten Birmingham the previous week. That was as good as it got for the blues (or bright yellows) as Wigan took advantage of City's poor defending. Sylvain Distin had his worst game of the season as Jason Roberts out-paced and out-muscled him time and again. Distin was at fault for the first goal as he missed an attempted clearance from a ball over the top, allowing Roberts to nip in behind him and finish easily. The second Wigan goal came from a McCulloch header as sleepy Sommeil decided against staying with the man and presented him with a free header that was well converted. Just before the break Thatcher got in on the act by providing a perfect headed through ball for Roberts to run in behind Distin and break clear of those masquerading as a defence, to score Wigan's third.
Stuart Pearce must have had words at the break as City came out and dominated. Barton, in particular, was in fine form, forcing a sucession of world class saves out of Pollitt in the Wigan goal. As City pressed Wigan withdrew to protect their lead, relying even more on the counter attacks that had served them so well in the first half. On 71 minutes it was Camara's turn to get in behind the static City defence before nutmegging Dunne and finishing to make it 4-1. That should have been game over and total embarrassment, instead City rallied through the excellent Barton and sought a way back into the game. It was fitting that Barton himself scored on 77 minutes, a spectacular volley, as his all round play deserved it. Barton's goal gave City belief once more and they continued to press to get something from a game that had looked lost. With just two minutes remaining, Cole scored to narrow the gap to one goal and set up a hectic last couple of minutes. Sibierski headed wide in injury time but it was not to be the complete comeback that the 5,000 city fans in a record JJB crowd had hoped for.
All in all a thrilling game for the neutrals but dire for City. The defence were awful with Distin, in particular, having a nightmare. Solace can be sought from another three away goals, making it nine goals in the last four league games, but the fact remains that this was a must win game. Credit must be given to Joey Barton however, a man of the match display that didn't warrant a place on the losing side. The team need to get their act together quickly, it's only Chelsea next up.