Roberto Martinez opted to make one change from the side so comprehensively and controversially beaten at Old Trafford last week replacing the industrious Sammon with the more productive Rodallega.
The first forty minutes was soporific with Wigan seemingly intent on passing the ball from one net to the other as befits the side which has completed the fewest long balls in the Premier League against Stoke who have completed the most and sought to put the Wigan back three under pressure from corners, long throw ins and long kicks up field. Stoke’s methods should not detract from their skills however and had they made the most of the pressure from balls all to often gifted to them by Wigan the result could have been much different.
As it was the Wigan defence produced a competent workmanlike defensive display and rarely in the first half did Stoke look dangerous other than a header from Huth which went narrowly wide of the Wigan goal.
Wigan’s best effort in this period followed a lovely run from Stam who cut inside from the right wing and fired a goal bound shot which Sorenson did well to tip over for a corner.
For Wigan the aforementioned Stam, Rodallega and Diame were working hard the latter had a fantastic battle with former Wigan favourite Wilson Palacios in the centre of midfield.
The opening goal when it came was from the first constructive move of the afternoon from Wigan. Once again Stam was the architect when a beautiful through ball from the Dutchman found Rodallega whose wonderful anticipation saw him in space, he swivelled and fired a powerful low cross which was met by Moses for an easy tap in.
The second half followed the same pattern to the first with Wigan seemingly content to sit back and defend the lead which apart from a header from Huth which hit the post and bounced straight into Al Habsi arms they appeared to be going top achieve until a goal bound shot from substitute Cameron Jerome hit the out stretched arm of Gary Caldwell and for the third straight game in succession Wigan had conceded a penalty the second in three games by the Wigan captain Gary Caldwell both ironically awarded by the same referee Mr Oliver. This time it resulted in a red card for Caldwell and penalty being converted by Walters saw Wigan pegged back and down to ten men.
Martinez responded by bringing off Jordi Gomez and replacing him with defender Steve Gohuri who had to be quick to clear a quick break from Stoke.
He was powerless to repeat the feat a few minutes later however when Jerome beat the offside trap down the left and as Al Habsi narrowed the angle well place the ball with pin-point accuracy into the far corner and Stoke had the lead with Wigan looking dead and buried.
The team spirit in this Wigan team however is far stronger these days and as they pushed forward looking for an equaliser, a six of one half a dozen of the other tug of shirts between Rogallega and Shotton was the Wigan man fall to the floor and Mr Oliver once again pointed to the spot.
Wigan had substituted one penalty taker in Gomez but such wasMartinez’s faith in the other option Ben Watson he brought him off the bench to take the kick and Watson showed his cool composure by converting the chance and Wigan were level.
Full time brought tremendous cheers from the boisterous Wigan following an acknowledgement of the spirit and commitment shown by the players.
Wigan Team and player ratings
Al Habsi….6 Couldn’t be faulted for the goals.
Stam………8 Another excellent performance
Figueroa….7 Back to his best
Alcaraz……7 Immense in the air
Caldwell…7 Led by example
Moses……6 Took his chance well
Gomez…..5 Game passed him by
McCarthy..7 Worked hard
Diame……7 Tremendous tussle with Palacios
Rodallega 8.5 Man of the Match, was involved in everything good aboutWigan
Gohuri….6 Lit tle chance to shine
Watson…7 Mr cool for his penalty conversion
Photograph used by kind permission of Bernard Platt and Wigan Athletic
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