Hugo Rodallega had four clear cut chances for the hosts
It may have been a draw, but it certainly wasn’t a bore. Much like last season’s equivalent clash, neither team could claim to be at their best, but this bottom-of-the-table clash produced a relatively open game, at least in the second half.
Though tentative early on, things began to pick up around 20 minutes in as both Latics and Fulham ground out one decent chance each. For a long time, play plodded along at a low-key pace as both sides took their time feeling their way into the game. Things would spark into life, though, as Hugo Rodallega headed against the post and Damien Duff, one-on-one with Al Habsi, only succeeded in firing the ball against the Omani’s legs. I do Ali a disservice, actually, as he closed his man down well – in fact he did pretty much everything asked of him all afternoon and was something of an unsung hero, taking crosses with ease and very rarely spilling the ball.
It was in the second stanza, when Latics went 4-4-2(!), that the quality began to seep through. I’d go so far to say it was entertaining, certainly more so than the first, an open affair which could have seen either side steal the spoils.
For a long time, it looked as though Latics would win out. Another Wigan long ball from the back(!!) bounced quite nicely for Rodallega, who expertly chipped Stockdale from ten yards. It was true route one football, and for once it had actually worked for Martinez’s side. I’m not sure if he stuck to this tactic for the remainder of the game as at times Charles N’Zogbia seemed to be returning to the left wing role he struggled with in first 45.
For the most part, however, Charlie Boy prospered at the head of Latics’ attack line, effecting some fantastic breakaway chances that oh so nearly led to goals. Hugo could easily have had four, though a bumper home contingent would have to make do with just the one big cheer. That’s a lie, actually, as things got quite vociferous as Fulham had a goal disallowed, much to the chagrin of their travelling contingent. To be fair, it looked a handball from where I was sitting, and that was right at the back of the East Stand some ten miles away.
Andrew Johnson grabbed Fulham's late equaliser
Clint Dempsey’s ruled-out strike was indicative of a Fulham wave of pressure which saw the visitors lay siege to the Wigan goal in the final ten. As Rodallega and co. scrambled to cover in defence, N’Zogbia was left on his own up front, neutralised by Pantsil and Hangeland. Heh, sounds like a northern music hall act.
Anyway, we were now camped squarely in our own half and eventually the pressure was bound to tell. Fulham supersub Andrew Johnson, who caused Latics problems from the moment he set foot on the field only ten minutes previous, managed to squeeze his strike over the keeper via the leg of a defender with just four minutes of regular time to play.
There was still time for either side to snatch the victory, but it was the visitors who looked more likely. Wigan were not helped by referee Taylor, who visibly began to infuriate them by producing some non-existent fouls against Di Santo and N’Zogbia from the deepest depths of his backside. In truth, he’d been doing this all game, but Latics’ situation made his actions all the more prominent. The upshot of it all was that Rodallega and Di Santo talked their way into the referee’s book alongside Figueroa, Alcaraz, Panstil and Hangeland. “Join the club,” they might have quipped.
Full time came at just the right point for Wigan, who were now under some serious pressure. Thankfully, no more chances were to follow, so the game finished with the visitors on top and Latics relieved to have survived for a point. It was a fair result, with neither side outclassing the other and each having their own equally decent spells of attacking pressure that could well have led to goals.
Stuck in the bottom three before kickoff, Wigan would have benefited more from the three points, and it was a bit of a pity we couldn’t hold on for them. But a single point at least lifts us out of the bottom three with favourable results elsewhere, and in this relegation catfight (a bit like a dogfight, only slightly more girly and whiny), who knows what might happen between now and May 2011. With the return of McCarthy and Moses imminent, things may start to look up sooner rather than later.