Former Newcastle midfielder Charles N’Zogbia scored the decisive goal in Wigan’s 2-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday.
N’Zogbia, dubbed ‘insomnia’ by Joe Kinnear, left the black-and-white quarters of the North East in January and had not scored for his new club until a mazy solo effort just before half-time on Wearside.
Another transfer window acquisition, Ben Watson, also scored his first goal under Steve Bruce to put Wigan in front before Grant Leadbitter’s equaliser gave a sorry, sorry Sunderland side brief hope.
N’Zogbia duly extinguished any such optimism to leave Ricky Sbragia’s side stuck on just 32 points and far from safe of the spectre of relegation.
For a team with the standout talents of the likes of Antonio Valencia, it was little surprise to see Wigan take the lead through a moment of magic, even if the perpetrator was somewhat unexpected.
Sunderland’s attempts to deal with Chris Kirkland’s clearance were nothing short of embarrassing and Watson, picking up the loose ball, sagely allowed it to bounce before unleashing a fierce shot past the sprawling Marton Fulop.
Kirkland was equally busy in a more familiar guise, superbly keeping out first Andy Reid and then Djibril Cisse. Sandwiched between those two chances, the England keeper watched on as his side took charge without ever looking likely to add to their lead.
They paid for that lack of punch five minutes before the break when they, much like Sunderland for the first goal of the game, failed to defend a hopeful clearance. Leadbitter surged on to Kenwyne Jones’ knock-down and slid the ball under Kirkland.
Just as Ricky Sbragia was putting the finishing touches to his now-revised half-time team-talk, up popped N’Zogbia. The Latics broke from their own penalty area and the January signing from Tyneside ran from inside his own half, bravely stayed on his feet and clipped the ball past an advancing Marton Fulop to complete an outstanding individual effort.
The Black Cats desperately needed to raise the tempo, to take the game to their visitors and came out from half-time all guns blazing.
They spectacularly failed to do so and the result should have been put to bed seven minutes into the second half when Paul Scharner shot straight at Fulop when a simple square pass would surely have reaped far more reward.
Sunderland at least had a sniff of the Wigan goal an hour in when Cisse’s shot dropped to Steed Malbranque, who hammered past Kirkland only to see the flag rightly raised for offside.
This, and a repeat for Leadbitter, was about as good as it got for a Sunderland side that, to be kind looked ragged but, to be accurate, were nothing short of abysmal.