ALAN Pardew will hopefully go on to achieve rather more impressive things as Newcastle United manager, although the new boss has at least managed to bring the Magpies their first win at the DW Stadium.
A solitary goal from Shola Ameobi was enough to secure United a win at Wigan at their sixth attempt.
A ground which has been a graveyard for previous Newcastle managers has given Pardew a win which should do wonders for his team’s chance of surviving in the top flight.
Graeme Souness, Sam Allardyce and Joe Kinnear have all felt the full brunt of supporter anger after defeats in this particular part of Lancashire and, it could be argued, never managed to salvage their reputations after it.
Pardew, though, has done the opposite. After a difficult start to his tenure, he has secured a vital victory on the road which puts six points between his side and the relegation zone.
Breathing space which means Newcastle can rest a little easier at the start of the New Year.
Then again, if they need to be remind-ed about the potential perils ahead of them, it is worth pointing out the last time the Magpies tumbled out of the Premier League they took 22 points from their first 19 games, the same tally they had collected before this trip to Wigan.
United’s season, on that occasion, started well enough, unravelled in the winter and fell to pieces in the spring.
It is a painful memory which should be too fresh for complacency to rear its ugly head between now and May, but it is worth bearing in mind as United look at squad strengthening this month.
Newcastle have already made their first approach to Tottenham for Robbie Keane and Pardew also tossed David Beckham’s name into the mix, which emphasises the fact he is searching for a striker, a winger and a left-back this month.
United should have been in front inside two minutes.
Danny Simpson is not the most attacking full-back Newcastle have ever had, but he can whip in a dangerous cross and the one which found Ameobi was asking to be headed in at the far post.
The striker leapt well enough, but ended up guiding the ball high and wide of the target. Tom Cleverley, on loan from Manchester United, almost exposed that miss with Wigan’s next attack only for Steve Harper – back in goal in place of Tim Krul – to tip his shot wide of the post.
Cleverley had another decent chance when he was picked out at the end of Mohamed Diame’s run down the left, but the ball was slightly behind him and he could not keep his volley down.
Newcastle have been over-reliant on Andy Carroll and, if anything, too predictable, constantly aiming for his head to make something happen.
Not only has the England international had more shots, on and off target, he has also created more goals this season than anyone else – with six coming courtesy of his sizeable frame.
However, with Ameobi fit again and Peter Løvenkrands a lively presence alongside him, United had a different dimension to their game – and the pair caused enough problems to keep Wigan on the back foot.
The visitors were eventually rewarded for their tenacity, Barton relieving Steve Gohouri of possession on the edge of his own area before setting himself for a volley which Ali Al Habsi failed to hold on to.
Løvenkrands should have put in the first rebound, but when his shot came back off the post Ameobi simply rolled it into the net.
It was Ameobi’s first goal since the thrashing of Sunderland at the end of October and the 28-year-old was enjoying an effective return to the side, linking up well with the busy Løvenkrands.
The Dane should have got his name on the scoresheet when he took far too long to get a shot away from a Barton centre.
Fabricio Coloccini was also desperately unlucky to see a stupendous header from just inside the Wigan area smash into the crossbar following a Barton corner.
The lack of a second goal – Gutiérrez also denied one on one by a quick dash off his line from Al Habsi – was a concern as half-time approached.
Wigan went close once, Gary Caldwell’s header hitting the bar, with Hugo Rodallega hooking the rebound over from six yards, but were unlikely to be as bad in the second half.
They were not, but neither was the size of their improvement enough to turn Harper’s early evening into a busy one.
The United number one did not have a save to make, the closest Wigan getting to an equaliser a wild Rodallega effort from 20 yards which clattered into the advertising hoardings. Newcastle continued to look the better of the two sides and the more likely to add another goal, Steven Taylor’s powering a header on to the crossbar from yet another Barton set piece.
There were still another 22 minutes for the visitors to hold out and Pardew’s response was to withdraw Løvenkrands and replace him with Wayne Routledge, asking Ameobi to play up front on his own before his tired legs were replaced by Leon Best’s.
It was Best who came close to covering the cake in icing, a long run from inside his own half ending when he dragged a shot wide.