Black Cats away woe continues
A Hugo Rodallega strike late in the second half was enough to see off an out-of-sorts Sunderland at the DW Stadium. The Wigan forward struck with little over 14 minutes left of play to continue the Black Cats' wretched away form in a lively game, short on quality, in manager Steve Bruce's first visit to his old club since becoming Black Cats boss. Sunderland have now won just one of their last 17 away league games, a 1-0 victory at Bolton on the opening day of the season. And if the club's form does not improve on their travels they can kiss goodbye to any aspirations of European football next term. Bruce made only one change from last week's home victory over Arsenal - Michael Tuner returning from suspension to replace John Mensah at centre half, with the Ghana international taking a place on the bench. Black Cats ace Darren Bent, meanwhile, shrugged off a hamstring injury to take his place up front by himself as Bruce opted to retain the 4-5-1 formation which was so successful in last week's triumph over the Gunners. The tactic failed to make any impression in the opening period, however, as Bent often found himself isolated up front with the midfield not pushing on to give support. Although Roberto Martinez's side, determined to bounce back from last week's thrashing at Tottenham, deserve to take some plaudits for making it difficult for the Wearsiders. They were tigerish from the off. Saying that, Sunderland did create the first opening, a Kieron Richardson shot over the bar after only three minutes, but that was the only real threat on Chris Kirkland's goal in the first half as the home side while, not dominating, certainly created the better scoring opportunities. The hosts' first chance came when Jason Scotland and Hugo Rodallega set up Paul Sharner from 20 yards with seven minutes on the clock. Fortunately he scuffed his effort and Marton Fulop saved comfortably. Scotland followed that up moments later shooting weakly at Fulop. Wigan should have took the lead in the 26th minute when good work from Charles N'Zogbia down the right found Scotland only for the striker to find the upright. Sharner blasted the rebound woefully high over the bar. The Latics went even closer three minutes later but somehow Fulop managed to get his fingertips to Turner's header from Rodallega's free-kick. After the break Bruce brought off Steed Malbranque for Fraizer Campbell and reverted from a 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 - it gave the visitors an immediate boost in the opening exchanges with Andy Reid and Phil Bardsley shots earning corners in the first five minutes. The energetic Reid then produced the game's best piece of play when he swapped passes on the edge of the box, before beating Mario Melchiot for skill down the flank and finding the head of Bent at the back post. Unfortunately, the striker headed straight across the goal. Campbell had a chance soon after but lost his footing when he looked certain to score. But despite the visitors' best efforts they could not find a way through and after Wigan wasting several chances before hand, it was no surprise when they eventually scored, Rodallega seized on a Paulo Da Silva slip 14 minutes from time to score from an acute angle. The Wigan striker had further opportunities to increase the lead but wasted them, shooting either wide or weakly at Fulop. Bruce threw on Bolo Zenden and David Healy six minutes from time in a last throw of the dice for George McCartney and Da Silva but the substitutes failed to make an impact in the time given and Wigan bounced back from their mauling at White Hart Lane last week, while Bruce could only reflect on what could have been.
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