Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wigan Athletic 0 - 0 Fulham

Wigan suffered a frustrating goalless draw at home to Fulham after being severely handicapped by having to make all three of their substitutions in the first half because of injury.
The hosts lost midfielders Antonio Valencia and Michael Brown in the 19th minute and then saw striker Mido limp off three minutes before the interval.

So when the time came in the second half to freshen things up all manager Steve Bruce could do was shuffle his players around into different positions and formations to try to make a breakthrough.

A draw may have extended their unbeaten home run to eight matches, stretching back to Oct 26, but that provided little consolation.

Fulham, without an away win all season, had the better chances and if anyone should have won it was probably them.

In the first half Bobby Zamora forced one good save out of goalkeeper Chris Kirkland and then embarrassingly heading over an open goal from two yards.

Wigan's best opportunities also came in the first half, with Mido's low drive turned away at the near post by Mark Schwarzer their best.

Having lost five players and brought in four in the transfer window Bruce had spoken about the need for his new recruits to "hit the ground running'' but Wigan's early play was disjointed.

Having to make two early substitutions certainly did not help with cohesion and losing Valencia, back after missing two matches with a hamstring injury, was a particular blow.

Up to that point Fulham had looked the more threatening Zamora and Andrew Johnson having chances.

Zamora was denied by a Mario Melchiot block and Chris Kirkland save in the same incident.

The visitors had a penalty claim when Johnson fell - somewhat easily - under a challenge from Paul Scharner but the contact was accidental and just outside the box.

In the 23rd minute Fulham goalkeeper Schwarzer made his first save when Hugo Rodallega's chest trap and through-ball presented Mido with an opportunity at the near post.

Seconds later the Egypt international was only just off target with a header from Maynor Figueroa's long cross.

Clint Dempsey was the first player to be booked, in the 35th minute, for bringing down Melchiot as he charged down the right touchline.

Zamora was then taken by surprise by Hangeland's flick-on from Davies' left-wing corner and managed to head over from two yards out.

Things got worse for Wigan three minutes before the break when Mido limped off and was replaced by Amr Zaki.

Jason Koumas and Ben Watson both flashed volleys wide from outside the area as the hosts ended the half on a brighter note.

Fulham's on-loan Inter Milan midfielder Olivier Dacourt also came on for his debut just before the break when he replaced the injured Dickson Etuhu.

John Pantsil was booked for going through the back of Zaki in the 51st minute but Koumas' free-kick was cleared.

The Wales midfielder's mis-placed pass on the halfway line then allowed Zamora to charge into the penalty area but he crossed rather than shot and Titus Bramble got across to block.

Bramble's decision to leave Davies' near-post cross to Kirkland could have proved costly as Zamora nipped in but he could not keep his shot down.

The game was becoming more end to end and Zaki fired a 30-yard effort straight at Schwarzer before Kirkland dived at Johnson's feet to deny the Fulham striker.

Wigan's main problem was that they could not knit enough passes together to open up Fulham.

Figueroa was booked for sliding in on Zamora as he threatened to break free down the left but Davies' inswinging free-kick was punched clear by Kirkland.

The Honduran left-back's 73rd-minute deflected shot brought Schwarzer into action but he was not really troubled in diving to his left.

Zamora was replaced by Erik Nevland for the last 15 minutes but when he got his first chance from Dacourt's dinked ball he headed tamely wide.

Passes continued to go astray from both sides in the closing stages and ultimately they both got what they probably deserved.

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