Belfast Telegraph

Extra motivation for Al Habsi

Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi has a personal reason for keeping Newcastle's sharp-shooters at bay on Saturday.

Al Habsi was at Coventry on Monday night to witness his fellow countrymen from Oman suffer Olympic heartbreak against Senegal. And he has no wish to endure more disappointment at the DW Stadium when Senegal internationals Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba are leading the Newcastle charge.

"I will make sure to save their shots," he said. "Senegal beat us at Coventry, so I want to make sure they don't score any goals against me."

Al Habsi was one of Wigan's stand-out performers in that purple patch that secured four wins in five games, with Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal amongst their victims. However, any notion the run would guide the Latics to safety in their annual fight to avoid relegation has been dispelled by victories for QPR, Blackburn and Bolton over the last seven days.

It means Al Habsi has no time to reflect on Oman's disappointments, or even bask in the glory of three ground-breaking Wigan triumphs, as another Champions League challenger must be faced.

"I was proud of the Olympic team," said the 30-year-old. "A lot of people were watching too, which is important because we need more players from Oman playing in Europe if we are going to improve. But I have to forget about that now.

"There are three big three games to the end of the season and we must maintain our performance level. We have had some good wins for us.

"Even against Fulham last week we did well but were just unlucky to lose in the last minute. If we carry on playing like that, I am sure we will do it."

Wigan did have a perfect home record against Newcastle in Premier League combat until last term, when Shola Ameobi grabbed the only goal for Alan Pardew's men.

Since then, the arrival of first Ba, then Cisse has transformed the Tyneside outfit, turning them from a secure mid-table outfit into top-four contenders.

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