Two Points Dropped - Latics 1-1 Fulham
Wigan Athletic entertained Fulham at the DW Stadium with Charles N`Zogbia back in the side following his three game suspension and a renewed optimism in the air, in front of the biggest crowd of the season, that a home win was on the cards.
We should have known better, the Latics haven`t beaten Fulham at the DW Stadium since October 2005 when a last minute Pascal Chimbonda goal gave the victory to Wigan, since then there has been a series of draws and it looks like that may continue long into the future if this game is anything to go by.
Latics started the brightest though it was Fulham who had the first chance, Damian Duff blazing wide from 18 yards.
Hugo Rodallega put a strike just past the post as the Latics replied, then the Colombia international had a glorious chance to put the home side in the lead, Ben Watson picked the ball up in midfield and played a glorious pass to a rampaging Ronnie Stam who was flying down the Latics right.
Stam took the ball in his stride, got to the by-line looked up and hit a marvellous cross that picked out the head of Rodallega, unmarked, 4 yards out, the Latics striker hit a thunderous header that crashed against the base of the post, the ball came out to an incoming N`Zogbia whose first time shot cannoned off a Fulham defender and out for a corner. Rodallega should really have hit the back of the net.
In charge of the game was Wythenshawe referee Anthony Taylor who had one of the worst games I have ever witnessed from an official, without dwelling on the numerous wrong decisions throughout the game, one incident summed up his performance.
Latics left back Maynor Figueroa was carrying the ball through the midfield when a challenge from Fulham striker Clint Dempsey totally cleaned out Figueroa, Dempsey was late, caught the Honduran on the ankle with his studs and fore arm smashed Figueroa on the jaw.
The referee rightly blew for a foul, the players took their positions assuming the free-kick was for the Latics, Figueroa received treatment, Taylor then stunned the whole of the DW Stadium by awarding the free-kick to Fulham, they actually looked embarrassed to take it.
The first half was a pretty poor affair in all honesty and one worrying thing was the pitch started to cut up badly again, winter really does have an adverse effect on the DW playing surface.
The second half was a lot more lively and the Latics took the lead in the 56th minute.
Al-Habsi punted the ball up field, Rodallega got the better of his two markers and latched onto the ball 8 yards out, Fulham keeper Stockdale looked undecided what to do, Rodallega knew exactly what to do, a delightful chip over the stranded keeper and into the net, 1-0 Latics.
The Colombian hit man then had a further two efforts to put the game out of Fulham`s reach, firstly he had a swivel shot that Stockdale just managed to push onto the post and out for a corner, then a delightful move with N`Zogbia saw the pair exchange passes from the half way line, N`Zogbia raced up the left and sent a great ball into the path of Rodallega who unfortunately couldn`t control his shot and skied over the bar.
Latics were left to rue for those passed up chances when on 85 minutes Andrew Johnson scored for the visitors. Latics lost possession high up the pitch, Fulham broke quickly and Johnson fired home despite a desperate attempt by Al-Habsi to keep the ball out. 1-1
Two points dropped after being in front for so long and having chances to put the game to bed, Fulham perhaps deserved the point but Latics need to learn how to kill off games when they have the opportunity if they are still to be playing Premier League football next season.
Al Habsi, Gohouri, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Thomas, Diame, Stam(McArthur, 72), Watson (Di Santo, 87), N'Zogbia, Rodallega
Subs:Pollitt. Boyce, S. Caldwell, Gomez, McArthur, McManaman, Di Santo
Stockdale, Pantsil, Hangeland, Baird, Murphy (Capt), Kamara (Dembele, 59), Duff, Hughes, Etuhu, Dempsey, Davies (Johnson, 76).
Subs:Etheridge, Salcido, Sidwell, Johnson, Gera, Greening, Dembele