Baring in mind the previous games between Wigan and Fulham nobody was expecting a game that would be great for the neutral to watch. The interest in the game was if Hugo Rodallega would start on his return to the DW Stadium and whether he would come back to haunt the Latics.
Martinez made a couple of changes to the side that started the thrashing at Old Trafford, James McArthur was relegated to the substitute bench replaced by Ben Watson, whereas the injured Di Santo made way for Jordi Gomez. Fulham kept faith and started Hugo Rodallega alongside his strike partner Dimitar Berbatov following their victory against West Brom last week.
The game, as predicted, started off lifeless and sloppy. No real chances were made apart from Fulham having a couple of corners. The most entertaining part came on the 14th minute when Watson and Sidwell slid in for a 50/50 tackle only for Lee Probert to get caught in the middle and taken out by both sides. This was met by huge cheers by both sets of fans as Probert was left receiving treatment from the Wigan physios.
The next bit of life came into the game when Fulham had a corner. The ball was delivered into the box and ended up heading towards Rodallega at the far post to score his first Fulham goal. All Rodallega had to do was wait for the ball to reach him, but Beausejour had other ideas and acrobatically hooked the ball away from Rodallega, denying him of his first goal.
There`s a pattern emerging though that if you leave Wigan then you WILL score against them. Roberts, Baines, Valencia have all done so and now it was Rodallega`s turn. Berbatov and Rodallega had been linking up well in the early stages of the game, and it was their combination that led to the deadlock being broken. Berbatov floated in a ball towards the 6 yard box and Rodallega leapt well to head the ball past Al Habsi. This was the Columbian`s first goal for his new club and despite his excitement and happiness his celebrations were muted.
With half time looming Wigan were yet to show any spark, but Gomez showed the fans a glimpse of this as he fired a shot against the crossbar providing Wigan`s closest chance. 1-0 was the score at half time and the fans were hoping of a change to give the side some flare, creativity and someone who could change a game.
No changes came and the game started again where it had left off, sloppy passing and individual mistakes. Watson time and time again passed balls astray and long balls were attempted by the team to either wing with no success.
The only chance Wigan stumbled across came when a ball was played through for Kone, the Ivory Coast international stormed ahead of the final defender and found himself one on one with Schwarzer, however Kone had a heavy touch which allowed the Fulham goalkeeper to come out and block his attempt.
On the 68th minute Wigan were made to pay once again for their sloppy play. Shocking defending by the Latics allowed Brian Ruiz to wriggle through, evading three players. He then knocked the ball to on to Damien Duff who powered the ball across Al Habsi into the far side of the net. 2-0 Fulham.
Martinez made a brave move after this goal went in. Captain Caldwell and Boyce were brought off and replaced by two attacking players, Miyaichi and McManaman. Watson dropped into the centre of the defence and Maloney took on the captains armband.
This change seemed to create some life in the Wigan team. Despite still being sloppy, they kept the ball better than they had and worked the Fulham defence, players were running at the defenders and trying to get the ball into the box. This finally paid off in the 91st minute when Kone turned on some scrappy play and slammed the ball into the bottom left corner from 8 yards. 1-2.
The game finished and Wigan once again had a poor game. Despite having 62% of the possession during the Latics were sloppy with the ball and didn`t take their chances. They had no life and players such as Watson just didn`t step up to the mark. McManaman looked lively when he came on and looked desperate to make a mark on the team. He was getting at players and creating something in the final third. Ramis also deserves some recognition for the game today as he had a pretty solid game in defence. Martinez will have to have a rethink about the starting line up for the next game at Sunderland if Di Santo is still out with his calf injury. Maybe it is time to give McManaman a proper run out in the side? Only Bobby will know…
Latics – Al Habsi, Kone, McCarthy, Caldwell (c) (McManaman 77), Watson, Maloney, Gomez (Boselli 62), Boyce (Miyaichi 77), Ramis, Beausejour, Figueroa.
Subs: Pollitt, Jones, Crusat, McArthur
Fulham – Schwarzer, Riise, Hangeland (c), Baird, Sidwell, Berbatov, Duff, Hughes, Rodallega (Briggs 88), Reither, Kacaniklic (Ruiz 59)
Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Kasami, Petric, Karagounis
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