Wigan, Stoke games are often billed as the, “silky skills” of Roberto’s merry men versus the more direct, “ up and at ‘em style” of Pullis’ marauders but in the late afternoon sunshine Stoke more than matched a strangely lethargic Wigan side in terms of style and application and but for a fantastic save late on from new dad Ali Al Habsi in the Wigan goal, the Potters would have been going down the M6 with all three points.
Wigan made one change from the starting line up against Southampton, Beausejour being recalled to the starting line up in place of the suspended Alcaraz. Wigan started brightly with Beausejour and Figueroa linking well with Maloney and from one such move, McCarthy joined the attack and his shot was handled by Huth and Mr Atkinson wasted no time in pointing to the spot.
After a brief debate between Di Santo and Maloney as to who was to take the kick, the latter won and fired the ball past Begovic and Wigan had the lead.
Stoke are nothing if not determined and despite Wigan’s attempts to assert their dominance over the game, Stoke with Walters to the fore pressed forward with pace and no little effort but Wigan’s defence stood firm and Stoke were reduced to shooting from distance, one such shot being tipped onto the bar by AL Habsi for a corner.
For Wigan a fine run down the right by Boyce resulted in a cross but Kone’s first touch not for the first time let him down and the opportunity was wasted.
The momentum of the game turned in the space of ten minutes based on two substitutions; first Jean Beausejour who had looked sharp on the left limped off to be replaced by David Jones and then for Stoke Andy Wilkinson went off replaced by new signing from Liverpool Charlie Adam the latter of whom immeadately imposed his dominance on an unusually quiet James McCarthy and Stoke began to assert their dominance.
Their equaliser arrived as the result of a penalty, Walters narrowly beating the despairing dive of Al Habsi after a penalty was awarded against Figueroa for handball.
The half time whistle brought to an end an evenly based if scrappy first half and left the fans with the hope that the teams would up the ante in the second half.
The second half was indeed more exciting with chances at both ends although Stoke will feel that they had the best of them and it would be a one eyed Latics’ fan who would disagree.
It was Wigan who again took the lead when a good break by Kone appeared to have ended but the Ivorian picked out Di Santo with an exquisite pass and for the second week running the Argentinean found the back of the net.
Wigan continued to push forward but all too often they tried to pass the ball into the net instead of shooting and the big Stoke defenders broke the moves down with relative ease.
Stoke came more into the game and with Adams bossing central midfield , Stoke seemed to break through at will and there were several near misses in the Wigan goal before poor defending allowed Walters to cross where Crouch, unchallenged was left with an easy header to square the match once again.
Both sides pushed for an equaliser with Boyce and Jones having the best chances for Wigan and a fantastic save from AL Habsi following the deflected Adams free kick saw Al Habsi twist his both in the opposite direction that he was diving and tipped the ball onto the post , Stoke failing to put the rebounded ball into the net.
In the end a draw was probably a fair result as too many Wigan players had an off day, both in terms of the quality of their passing and their tackling against a Stoke side who closed Wigan down at every opportunity and broke quickly to stretch the Wigan defence.
Wigan Team and Ratings
Al Habsi…8 save of the season from the man of the match.
Figueroa…7 exposed by those in front of him but another solid performance.
Caldwell… 7 Marshalled his troops well.
Ramis… 7 Worked hard
Beausejour…6.5 Pertformed well until injured.
McCarthy…5 Strangely subdued.
McArthur…6 worked hard in an overrun midfield.
Maloney…7 skillful play.
Boyce…7 Worked hard
Di Santo…7.5 Ran himself ragged, took his goal well.
Kone…6.5 Some poor touches but improved as the game went on.
Jones …5 Too often exposed down the left.
Watson…6 Brought some steel to the midfield late on but too often over hit his passes.
Myiachi…6 Little chance to impress as late sub.
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