Wigan Athletic 2 (Dunkley 22, 70) Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from DW Stadium.
If Charlton never again play at Douglas Whelan Stadium - or whoever they call it after these days - it's gonna be a day too soon for me. This fixture is a waking nightmare. The staff are friendly, the crowd passive, the press room pies beyond reproach. But the results and performances are unremittingly dismal. And to make it worse, when the Addicks won here about four years ago, I was an absentee.
I make it four times I've journeyed to Wigan and each time Charlton have phoned it in. My debut, to be fair, wasn't all that bad. If memory serves -and Colin Cameron is sadly no longer around to verify my version - we lost 4-2, with both Bents on the scoresheet.
Trip No. 2 began the slide into growing insanity. I think the Latics tanked us 3-0 and my solitary memory is of some fruity old codger sneering derisively as we were outclassed "C'mon Wigan, you've nowt to beat here!" He looked like Norris Cole and actually said "Nowt" just like they do on Coronation Street but he was a shrewd judge. They polished us off with what came dangerously close to contempt.
Never the quickest of learners, I was again on hand to celebrate prematurely when Marvin Sordell put us ahead early on some years later. We somehow hung on until the last five minutes despite the antics of some bloke in goal who was good mates with Roland and was apparently over for the weekend. It was decent of him to volunteer and all that but he was an enormous liability and made quaking wrecks of us all. It was almost a relief when we caved in at the end and lost 2-1. Someone told me he was Lilian Thuram but that's cobblers. Lilian Thuram was never a goalie.
On Saturday, Lee Bowyer's side turned up -make that didn't turn up - at DW and stone me if they didn't succumb to the Wigan curse. The local yokel was no longer around to make the point but once again the Latics had nowt to beat. Two goals were enough to see us off this time and some of us considered taking a short walk off Wigan's fictional pier. They must think we're not all there to travel so far in support of such serial losers.
Resistance, such as it was, lasted this time for 22 minutes, at which point Latics' centre half Chey Dunkley sauntered through the cigar store Indians stationed around Charlton's goal and volleyed Charlie Mulgrew's right sided corner past Dillon Phillips. Not a red-clad figure twitched. They were similar disinterested when Dunkley again appeared among them 20 minutes from time to head home Michael Jacobs' inswinging left wing corner. Skipper Jason Pearce might have stiffened their setpiece defending but he was oddly unavailable on the subs' bench.
Wigan's second goal at least roused their dozing fans enough to enquire whether they could play Charlton every week. Bloody cheek but a reasonable request given their visitors' record in these parts.
"There were no positives," commented Lee Bowyer, although he qualified his damning summary by claiming that "we created enough chances to get something from the game but we were not ruthless in front of goal." Charlton's best chances, such as they were, arrived in a flurry near the end when the issue was effectively sealed. Conor Gallagher was foiled at close range by David Marshall, who also saved impressively from Josh Cullen's header. Tom Lockyer had previously blasted wide from an promising position when set up by Gallagher. Other than that, Charlton's strikers, four in number due to substitutions, had mustered between them a single shot on target, a feeble effort from Macauley Bonne, who turned sharply enough but was unable to summon the power to beat Marshall.
The way things shape up, it's likely that Wigan and Charlton will lock horns again in the Championship next season. This result removed the Addicks from the top six while lifting the Latics to three places above the relegation basement. It's early days, I don't need reminding but these clubs will probably be a lot closer to each other in the table come next May. Just staying clear of the bottom three will be a triumph for both of them. But anyway, that's Wigan (a) out of the way for a bit. That's a relief. Unless we're drawn away to them in the Cup. Nah, no chance. But here come those nightmares again...
Wigan: Marshall, Byrne, Dunkley, Mulgrew, Robinson, Morsy, Williams, Massey (Evans 69), Lowe (Naismith 70), Jacobs, Moore (Garner 84). Not used: Macleod, Fox, Jones, Gelhardt. Booked: Morsy.
Charlton: Phillips, Oshilaja, Lockyer, Sarr, Purrington, Pratley (Aneke 68), Cullen, Gallagher, Williams, Hemed (Bonne 62), Leko. Not used: Amos, Pearce, Forster-Caskey, Solly, Field. Booked: Oshilaja.
Referee: Andy Davies. Att: 9,567 (970 visiting).