Roberto Martinez highlighted the character and desire of his players in coming through a testing game at the DW Stadium against Newcastle United to collect their third home win of the season.
Arouna Kone’s last-gasp strike sealed a dramatic win for Latics and closed the gap between them and Aston Villa to three points, after a fiery contest in which Jean Beausejour scored his first goal for the club before Davide Santon levelled after the break.
Martinez reflected on the game, saying:
“We started the game very well, with real quality and scored the first goal against a strong Newcastle side with good individuals.
“That means that if you don’t score a second goal there’s a real risk you’re going to concede, and that’s what happened in the second half.
“But I’m pleased with the character we showed not just after Davide Santon’s goal, but throughout the game.
“We never gave up and we found the way to winning the game, which is vitally important because there have been so many stylish performances this season that have deserved more and today things were different, we had to show more will to win the game and in the end got what we deserved.
“There was some controversy during the game and it’s maybe one of those occasions where things are balancing themselves out over the course of the season.
“At St. James’ Park earlier this season we suffered some bad decisions and lost the game. Today we got a bit of luck go our way and it’s no more than we deserved.”
Martinez was referring to an incident involving Callum McManaman and Massaido Haidara, in which McManaman’s challenge led to the Newcastle player being taken off through injury – a high challenge but one the gaffer was quick to offer his thoughts on:
“It was his full debut for the club and it was the opportunity of a lifetime for him. He probably couldn’t quite control that enthusiasm and has made a striker’s tackle.
“The referee is in position to see the challenge, see the player get something on the ball and then the follow up of the challenge, which was very unfortunate for the Newcastle player.
“Unfortunately instances like this (the injury suffered) are part of the game – we’ve seen players pick up bad injuries throughout the season, but in a contact sport that’s going to happen.
“Callum McManaman has not got a nasty bone in his body, he doesn’t play football maliciously or with dangerous intent – he went into the challenge wanting to win the ball and unfortunately couldn’t control the enthusiasm in what was otherwise a very impressive debut.
“He came off in the second half after feeling his ankle again, an injury he picked up against Everton, and so we’ll asses him this week.”
That considered, Latics fans left the DW Stadium in high spirits given the dramatic nature of Kone’s winner, just rewards for the striker, the team and the fans according to Martinez:
“I thought Arouna had a difficult afternoon; Tiote and the two Newcastle centre-halves had a strong understanding throughout the game and made it tough for him.
“But he kept the right attitude and showed the desire to be in the right place at the right time to score the winning goal, which is very pleasing and very important.
“The manner of the goal and the support we had from our fans will give us so much more psychologically than the three points themselves.
“The main thing today was that we showed real quality at times, but great character and desire throughout the whole game.
“The goal we conceded disappointed the whole dressing room because that was sloppy by our standards, but overall I couldn’t have asked for more focus and energy from the players.”