EVANS FUMES AT REF OVER VITAL GOAL
ROTHERHAM boss Steve Evans claimed an “embarrassing decision” handed a Jermaine Pennant-inspired Wigan a relegation lifeline
The former £6.7m man curled two excellent free-kicks over the wall and beyond Adam Collin in just five match-changing first-half minutes before Matt Derbyshire replied for the Millers.
But an angry Evans was adamant Pennant should not have had the opportunity to hit home his first in the 31st minute.
The award was given on the edge of the box for an alleged foul by centre-back Kirk Broadfoot on James McClean – an incident that resulted in both players squaring up to each other and being yellow carded.
“It’s embarrassing for the referee,” claimed Evans.
“That’s hard to take. It’s just not a free-kick – if it is, we should all give up football. I can’t complain about Pennant’s execution of the free-kicks, he had been in the Premier League and can do that sort of thing.
“Our first half was average but we were outstanding at times in the second.We were fantastic and put them to the sword. There were two or three big chances for Jordan Bowery and we were disappointed not to get any goals for it.
“Wigan hardly got out of their half after the break but it’s a good result for them – and others in the league.”
Evans’ view was strongly backed by Broadfoot, who said: “I got out of the way and McClean dived. That’s cheating.”
Neither side threatened to score before Pennant’s spectactular one-two in a devastating five-minute spell.
Wigan’s new signing had already shown glimpses he is up for the battle before giving his side the lead. Pennant’s finish was simplicity itself as he chipped his shot over the Rotherham wall as Collin stood motionless.
Pennant’s instant emotional reaction as he celebrated in front of the travelling fans also spoke volumes.
The second was even better after Farrend Rawson fouled Marc-Antoine Fortune. Pennant changed direction to curl an unstoppable effort high into the far corner.
Shell-shocked Millers nearly replied when the impressive Jack Hunt fed Paul Green who shot inches over the bar but they did get a lifeline with the last touch of the first half. Ben Pringle’s cross was superbly headed home by Matt Derbyshire. The expected onslaught never quite materialised as determined Wigan largely held Rotherhan at arm’s length for much of the second half.
Fellow full-back Daniel Lafferty was inches away from converting another fine Hunt cross after 58 minutes but Ali Al Habsi wasn’t extended until comfortably saving Karl Arnason’s header in the 70th minute.
The goalkeeper, however, was at his very best to crucially deny substitute Bowery’s downward header with just three minutes left and recover to somehow claw away his follow up from pointblank range.
Wigan manager Malky Mackay had a very different view on the free-kick controversy, saying: “James has got to the ball first and nicked it past him – he’s been blocked and it’s obstruction. At first, I thought it was a penalty.
“Jermaine Pennant’s delivery on both was sensational. Look at it again and you’ll see how hard it was to do that. He’s come into the club and given us great charac- ter, personality and humility to become one of the leaders in the dressing room. He is certainly not here for the finances.
“Rotherham didn’t really threaten us in the second half apart from Al Habsi’s double save.
“The result keeps us close to the teams above us. The group I have now here is up for the fight.”
AT THE DOUBLE: Wigan’s Jermaine Pennant celebrates scoring their goal with Gaetan Bong. Inset: Pennant scores a free-kick