Wigan Athletic send Wolverhampton Wanderers bottom of the heap

Wigan Athletic send Wolverhampton Wanderers bottom of the heapWolves were booed off at half-time and again at the end as they sank to the bottom of the table, intensifying the pressure on Mick McCarthy, the manager who brought them up from the Championship two seasons ago.

After this defeat at home to opponents who had been their closest rivals in the relegation dogfight, McCarthy and his team will hardly be relishing a fixture list which has them away to Liverpool on Wednesday and against Chelsea in their next home match.

Wigan's supporters came dressed as bananas, and Wolves duly slipped up, conceding two poor goals in the first 20 minutes, which left them with too much to do when they roused themselves in the second half. Steven Fletcher, on as a substitute, scored their goal in the 87th minute, setting up a frenetic finale, but the equaliser was beyond them, the result the right one.

The Latics, who started in the bottom two, move up to 16th after what was only their second away win of the season. Hugo Rodallega was the man of the match, scoring one goal and making another for Tom Cleverley, his rival for the honour.

Roberto Martínez praised both, saying of Rodallega: "He has a natural gift for moving with perfect timing. His work ethic is a real inspiration to the team." Cleverley, 21, on a season-long loan from Manchester United, is "an outstanding talent whose tactical awareness is not normal for such a young man".

Wolves were unhappy with the officials after having two penalty claims refused by Mike Dean in the first half. Sympathy was in order over the way Steve Gohouri floored Stephen Ward from behind, but when Antolín Alcaraz handled the ball inside the area it appeared to be unintentional. The first, McCarthy said, was "an absolute stone-waller".

Whether they were penalties or not, the better team won. Wigan opened the scoring after nine minutes, Cleverley knocking a defensive clearance back into the penalty area where Rodallega made a mug of Richard Stearman before scoring from six yards. The second goal, after 20 minutes, was embarrassing. Wolves were opened up with absurd ease from a throw-in, Rodallega again exposing poor Stearman before supplying Cleverley, who scored through Wayne Hennessey's legs.

Martínez thought a "key moment" came in the 35th minute, when Ali al-Habsi improvised a save with a boot to keep out a free-kick from Nenad Milijas that had wrong-footed him.

In search of attacking impetus, McCarthy sent on Matt Jarvis and Fletcher, whose impact was such that one wondered why neither had been in the starting line‑up. The reluctance to change a winning team after the 1-0 victory over Birmingham was understandable but Jarvis provided width and menace, and Fletcher's predatory instincts are also wasted on the bench. The pair combined in the 87th minute, when a Jarvis cross from the right was met by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, whose header hit Alcaraz and fell obligingly for Fletcher to score from seven yards.

Second best everywhere, Wolves need the combative Karl Henry back as quickly as possible to energise their midfield. McCarthy said: "Our defending for both goals was really poor and we're not that good that we can come back from 2-0 down."

Martínez was pleased that his young team had matched Wolves for "physicality". He said: "We came to Molineux with a lot to lose – we could have been bottom if we'd lost. These games are worth only three points, but they do have extra significance psychologically."

Man of the match Hugo Rodallega

(Wigan Athletic)

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Joe Lovejoy at Molineux, for The Guardian on Sunday 26th December 2010 17.40 Europe/London

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