In the recent history of corresponding Premier League fixtures with Wigan, we have not been witness to many goals with just three being scored in the four games prior to this evening.
For a long time it looked as though this theme would continue as we continually failed to convert both territory and possession into reward, the increased frustration evident both in the stands and on the pitch. Whilst not creating much, the odd foray from Wigan also appeared to be growing in its threat.
Perhaps the sense of knowing how vital achieving the win was affected the side. Whilst a game in hand is nice to have, a five point gap to Tottenham is a big enough one to cause concern, and the added prospect of failing to win would also see us remain behind Liverpool in the table. During the first half we played well in the main, but couldn't quite click in attack, whilst the decision to bring in Wright-Phillips and Vieira for Bellamy and
de Jong Barry not immediately proving a success.
Vieira in particular was failing to impose any sort of dominance in midfield alongside de Jong in what was a vital area given the additional committment to attack deployed by Roberto Mancini. Too often we were slow in our build up play, and missed the incisiveness that Bellamy offers darting in from the left.
Whilst we were brighter after the half in the opening quarter of an hour of the second half we couldn't translate the dominance into a goal, almost as if we were trying too hard which resulted in a lack of control and composure when it was needed most.
If a little help was needed then we got it. No, not the sending off decision - which was warranted. A reckless and uncontrolled tackle such that was deserved off a red card. Wigan's stand in 'keeper Vladimir Stojkovic was hesitant when he should have taken all in front of him out and paid the price when Tevez rolled into an empty net.
The fact that the goal came moments after the sending was relevant though, as it almost certainly would have drained the belief and concentration that Wigan had shown for the best part of an hour and had another ten or minutes ticked by, the nerves would have undoubtedly frayed further.
What cannot be in dispute though is the continued impact of Carlos Tevez. His hat-trick was achieved in little over 12 minutes and he now has 21 goals from the past 19 games. Not a natural enough goalscorer indeed. Interestingly, we have yet to lose in the league when he has been on the scoresheet.
Mancini talked of how important the return of Emmanuel Adebayor was to our hopes over the remainder of the season, and it is clear that he will look to field both him and Tevez as his preferred pairing. We looked a far better side with his return. Although the reliance on Tevez is clear, Adebayor occupies plenty of space and attention which allowed Tevez, Johnson, Wright-Phillips and Bellamy to prosper.
Of greatest importance tonight was to come away with the points, and that was achieved. By and large it was a positive enough display, but not without flaws, and of concern it is the same problems that have haunted us of late.
What we have not shown this season - and in contrast to both Tottenham and Liverpool - is an ability to put together a substantial winning run. Despite their losses this season, Liverpool have put runs together and Tottenham's victory over Portsmouth was their fifth in succession in the league. We cannot boast that over 2009/10, the season punctuated with dropped points and the occasional disappointing defeat.
Wigan at home wasn't a must win, but it was a should win. That was achieved. A glance ahead shows tougher times loom large which is why the forthcoming games against Burnley and Birmingham are vital in building momentum and belief for tougher tests
To harbour genuine hopes of finishing fourth then, when we head into the derby on April 17th it really does need to be on the back of a three game winning streak. Anything less could likely mean our destiny is out of our hands.