McCartney reflects on difficult day

George McCartney is already looking to next weekend's visit of Birmingham City after an unexpected defeat at Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

In freezing conditions at the JJB Stadium on Saturday, both teams had to contend with a pitch that appeared more mud and sand than grass. It was a surface that McCartney, on his 30th appearances of the season, described as the worst he had played on in ten years. "It suited their game more than it suited us," he said.

"We tried to pass our way through it but on that pitch no one was able to do it. It was tough. It was the same for both teams but with their style of play they knew how to cope with it."

A single goal always seemed likely to settle such a contest, and it was Wigan who managed it when Kevin Kilbane looped a header over Robert Green just before the interval. McCartney added: "We just had to keep it tight in injury time at the end of the first half. It was looking 0-0 all over." One positive for the players coming off was that neither Blackburn Rovers or Portsmouth, in eighth and ninth place respectively, had moved out of range of Alan Curbishley's tenth-placed club.

"It was one of them days, you can't win or get a point out of every match in the Premier League," added the ever-present Northern Ireland full-back who will now join up with Northern Ireland for their midweek friendly against Bulgaria in Belfast before returning to club duty at the Boleyn Ground next weekend. "We have been on a great run of late and we have just got to pick ourselves up for Birmingham. It is not going to be easy.

"Before today, we had looked at the next three matches and said we would maybe try to get maybe six to nine points out of them. We haven't picked up anything today, so we will look to Birmingham at home and get back on track."