Wigan eased to victory over Hartlepool in the League Cup, however, their performance still needs improving. After conceding 10 goals in their first two league matches, including six to Chelsea last weekend, Roberto Martinez made six changes including on loan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi and new signing Steven Caldwell, with the latter helping get a goal three minutes into the match.
Jordi Gomes lofted a free kick into the area which was turned in by the unfortunate Sam Collins who was under pressure for Caldwell. However, the early goal was not capitalised on by the Latics and Hartlepool grew in confidence and looked for an equaliser only for Al Habsi to deny the Pools. The keeper stopped a long drive from Joe Gamble, a bobbling shot from Paul Murray and then tipped a goal-ward bound shot also from Gamble. But all of Hartlepool’s hard work was undone when Jordi Gomez fired a free kick in off the underside of the bar 14 minutes from time, and Victor Moses wrapped up the match with a fine strike from the edge of the box.
After the match Steven Caldwell admitted that the first goal was an own goal despite trying to claim it for himself: “Jordi [Gomez] put in a tremendous ball to the front post and gives the defender plenty to think about. He was tight on me as the ball came in and unfortunately for him he’s put the ball in the back of his own net. At the time I tried to steal it and claim if for myself but in fairness I didn’t get anything on it at all so I can’t really put my name on that one.”
Caldwell also said the team were pleased with performance: “It was a very pleasing display as we knew we were going to be in for a very tough night. The early goal helped a lot and at times we kept the ball very well, and from my point of view and the rest of the defence, to come away with a clean-sheet is a big plus. We were pretty in control for most the game but you have to be aware that at any time they could break away and put you under pressure.” The defender believes that the win will help Wigan start their campaign: “We’ve had two poor results beforehand, and you have to get your campaign up and running sooner rather than later. Hartlepool was a potential banana-skin for us but we’ve shown our quality on the night, won comfortably in the end and know we’re pushing on for what will be an extremely difficult game on Saturday against Tottenham. It’s a tough place to go but we ourselves have to make sure we are tough and that we’re solid as a unit. We have to impose ourselves on the game and give everything if we want to get something out of the game.”
And Al Habsi is hoping that he can force his way into the starting XI against Tottenham after his impressive display against Hartlepool. The keeper said: “We have to re-produce the levels of concentration we showed against Hartlepool, and make sure we go into Saturday’s game against Tottenham with the same professional attitude. I am delighted to keep a clean-sheet in my first appearance for the club and I’ll be doing my best in training to try and make the team for Saturday.” Al Habsi also mirrored Steven Caldwell’s thoughts about taking this performance into the Premier League: “Overall it was a great win and a big bonus for us to keeper our first clean-sheer of the season, and its set the standard for what we need to achieve in the league. The first two games were very disappointing and as a result there was pressure on the team to perform against Hartlepool but the result and the performance will give us a lot to build on for the Tottenham game this weekend.”
The Latics have also turned down a bid of about £9m from Birmingham City for midfielder Charles N’Zogbia. They are refusing to sell him for anything less than £10m. Birmingham boss Alex Mcleish confirmed that he had improved his £8m offer and that this will be the final offer for N’Zogbia: “We have made another bid for Charles and we wait to see if it’s successful or not. We’re awaiting Wigan’s response. If this doesn’t happen, we have to move on to our next target quickly.”