It was as entertaining as any game could be – with six goals and two red cards it kept us on our toes for 96 minutes.
Uwe Rosler shocked the fans by resisting his tinkering tendencies and naming an unchanged lineup from the one that started the previous game against Derby.
Latics started well, their pressing allowing Fulham no time on the ball. In the 9th minute Callum McManaman was tripped in the box for a penalty. Adam Forshaw stepped up and scored his first Latics goal, hitting through the middle as goalkeeper Bettinelli dove to his right. Latics continued to look bright but their incisive approach play did not produce another goal.
But by around the 20 minute mark Latics’ high pressing had practically evaporated as Fulham crowded out the midfield and started to dominate possession. It did not come as a big surprise when in the 30th minute Scott Parker put through a superb ball for Lasse Vigen to evade Leon Barnett and tuck the ball past Scott Carson. Then six minutes later Ross McCormack’s right footed punt from the left was easily chested home at the far post by Bryan Ruiz with the left side of Wigan’s defence caught sleeping. Fulham’s wide players had caused Latics’ defence constant problems and Hugo Rodallega was looking lively. The visitors went into half time with a 2-1 lead.
Latics came out in the second half showing renewed vigour and got the equalizer after 52 minutes. The ball came to Roger Espinoza some 25 yards out and he hit a fine volley past Bettinelli. The game became open with end to end play, neither defence looking comfortable. Callum McManaman had a good effort saved, then the dangerous young left winger George Williams crossed for McCormack to force a fine save from Carson. James McClean replaced an out of sorts Emyr Huws after 61 minutes, with Don Cowie moving into the centre of midfield. McCormack handed Latics the advantage after 74 minutes when he received his second yellow card after an altercation with McClean.
Shaun Maloney came on as substitute for McManaman and scored a well taken goal in the 82nd minute following an exchange of passes with Espinoza. It looked as if Latics were going to snatch a much wanted three points but it was not to be. In the 86th minute Kiernan’s inability to clear a lofted ball saw Rodallega running through on goal, to be cut down by Barnett. Barnett received a red card and Ruiz slotted home the penalty. Ivan Ramis came on for Espinoza as the game continued for another 10 minutes, until reaching its conclusion.
Latics extended their unbeaten run to six, albeit including five draws. Confidence is increasing and new partnerships on the field are being built.
Rosler’s pressing tactic worked well for the opening quarter. It helped Latics get off to a good start and they looked the better team at that stage, with good movement from the midfield.
Despite being behind at the interval they did not drop their heads and would probably have won the game if it weren’t for a defensive error.
Tavernier’s crossing was of high quality and he looks such a fine player going forward. Forshaw was involved throughout and is coming to terms with the physical side of play in the Championship division.
Espinoza was an inspiration. His passing was crisp and precise, he scored a cracking goal and made an assist for another.
Marc-Antoine Fortune once again was tireless in the target man role, his hold-up play being excellent.
The back four were awful. Tavernier was repeatedly exposed by the 19 year old Williams and the centre backs did not mesh together. On the left Maynor Figueroa was useful going forward, but looked vulnerable in defence.
The ploy of playing Cowie in right midfield to allow Tavernier to attack did not work. On occasions when Tavernier was found wanting Cowie was not able to provide the support. Cowie looked one dimensional and short of pace on the right, but much better when moved into central midfield later in the game.
It appears that Cowie is heading the same way with the DW crowd as did Jordi Gomez in his early days at Wigan. Roberto Martinez always had faith in Gomez, despite the frustration he could cause among fans in passing the ball backwards or sideways. However, Gomez was never an automatic choice for Martinez, but Cowie has been so under Rosler.
After dominating the opening stages through their high pressing it was frustrating to see Latics drop back and allow Fulham to control the game. Was it something coming from the manager or were the players physically unable to keep up the pressing for longer than 20 minutes or so?
Tavernier is a talented young player, who will hopefully have a bright future at Wigan. In some ways he is reminiscent of Ryan Taylor. Taylor joined Latics as a right back, but was not a success in that position. Taylor proved to be so invaluable from set pieces that Steve Bruce would find a position for him in the team. That might also become the case with Tavernier.
Scott Carson: 7 – made some good saves, but was stranded for Fulham’s second goal.
James Tavernier: 5.5 – good in attack, vulnerable in defence.
Leon Barnett: 4.5 – good in the air but otherwise poor.
Rob Kiernan: 4 – poor.
Maynor Figueroa: 5.5 – not at his best.
Adam Forshaw: 7 – worked hard, rarely wasted the ball.
Emyr Huws: 5 – not as involved as usual. Is his ankle still troubling him? Taken off after 61 minutes.
Roger Espinoza: 9 – the best player on the pitch.
Don Cowie: 4 – poor.
Callum McManaman: 6 – heavily marked, but still posed a threat to Fulham’s defence. Fouled for the penalty. Lasted until the 81st minute.
Marc-Antoine Fortune: 8 – clearly relishing his place in the lineup ahead of Delort and Riera.
James McClean: – full of running, but unable to provide that final pass.
Shaun Maloney: – took his goal well.
Ivan Ramis: – came on 85 minutes too late. Why was he not in from the start?