A game of two halves for Franco Di Santo. Prior to this match, the Argentinian had not scored a goal since the beginning of October. The way he played in the first half reflected as much. In the first five minutes he somehow managed not to hit the net from two yards out, the ball trickling from his boot to the goalkeeper following a lovely move involving James McCarthy and Shaun Maloney. Even his usually excellent approach play wasn’t quite up to his usual standards as frustration set in. Shortly before half time, a neat backheel from James McArthur led to Emmerson Boyce putting over a great cross that a more accomplished Premier League striker would have poached — Di Santo put it over.
Roberto Martinez had gone into it with a conservative line-up. He packed the centre of midfield with David Jones, James McArthur and James McCarthy, while Shaun Maloney was employed in the second striker role. Fulham had strangely started without a recognized holding player to compete for midfield possession. After Fulham had taken the lead in the 22nd minute with a spectacular goal from Giorgos Karagounis it looked like Wigan had a hill to climb and their lack of cutting edge was cause for concern. Neat approach play is to no avail without clinical finishing.
As the second half progressed the need for another forward became even more apparent. However, in the 66th minute Jordi Gomez was brought on for David Jones. Wigan reverted to a straight back four, with Gomez and Beausejour pushed into wide midfield positions. Although the move resulted in Wigan having two players in wide positions who do not have the speed to get past opposing full backs, the change of shape galvanised their play.The chief beneficiary was Shaun Maloney, who dropped deeper into the playmaker role, and dictated Latics’ attacking play from that moment on. Di Santo and his teammates improved and the revived Argentinian went near with a quickfire volley before scoring a gem of an equalizer in the 71st minute. His confidence restored, he went close to a winner minutes later.
After a horrible injury to Ivan Ramis in the closing minutes Wigan fell apart and it was only an amazing goal line clearance from Maynor Figueroa that stopped them losing a match they had deserved to win.
A valuable point gained at a ground where Latics struggled so much in the past. The defence was disciplined and alert. Wigan played skillful football and created chances. The reemergence of Franco Di Santo from the doldrums bodes well in the absence of the accomplished Arouna Kone. Wigan played with spirit and the result will help boost morale, following a poor run of results.
Wigan’s cruel luck continues with a bad ligament injury to Ivan Ramis, who had done so much to neutralise the threat of Dmitar Berbatov. Wigan had the better share of clear scoring opportunities and could have brought home three points rather than one.
Ali Al Habsi: 6 – a quiet afternoon.
Emmerson Boyce: 7 – very solid in defence, reading the game well, using his considerable experience.
Ivan Ramis: 7 – played the major part in keeping Berbatov at bay. Solid in defence and possibly a big loss for the rest of the season. Let’s hope not.
Gary Caldwell: 8 – marshalled his defence, excellent in positioning and tackling.
Maynor Figueroa: 7.5 – saved two points with a stunning goal line clearance. Disciplined and solid in defence.
Jean Beausejour: 6 – gradually regaining his touch. Worked hard in defence and put in some nice crosses.
James McCarthy: 7 – consistent as ever. Looked classy.
James McArthur: 6 – worked hard, tackled well and put through some nice passes.
David Jones: 6 – hard working, but wish his passing would be more incisive.
Shaun Maloney: 7 – much more comfortable in the playmaker role. At the heart of the second half revival.
Franco Di Santo: 6 – a game of two halves , but good to see him back on form in the last half hour.
Jordi Gomez: – played out of position on the right and had little input on the game as a result.
Ronnie Stam: came very late in the game, but his lapse could have led to a defeat in added time.