Leg-weary Wigan grateful to Mahon

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The Independent Football

Wigan Athletic's fourth consecutive match without a win could easily have been a substantial defeat at the Madejski Stadium yesterday. They also forfeited their top place in the Championship to Ipswich and no longer have the look of a team about to break away from the rest.

Wigan Athletic's fourth consecutive match without a win could easily have been a substantial defeat at the Madejski Stadium yesterday. They also forfeited their top place in the Championship to Ipswich and no longer have the look of a team about to break away from the rest.

The confidence of both clubs had been slightly eroded, Wigan having drawn with Leicester City and Reading losing to struggling Nottingham Forest the previous weekend. Indeed, Wigan had begun to look decidedly peaky and were probably relieved to find that Reading were short of strikers, Dave Kitson and Nicky Forster, both out, and Shaun Goater fit only to be named on the bench.

In spite of their problems, Reading had billed this as the defining test of their season so far. They had anticipated that Wigan would continue to show their lack of respect for home teams and were quickly proved right. Wigan like to attack over a broad front as well as pursuing half-chances with keen anticipation. Alan Mahon saw a 10th-minute chance from as far as 25 yards yet still managed to shave a post with his shot.

If Wigan thoughtthey were injury-free, that changed after 22 minutes when Lee McCulloch had to abandon the game, to be replaced by David Graham. Despite the disruption, Wigan took a 26th-minute lead as a result of a set-piece. Reading had given away a free-kick a pace or two outside the penalty area. The ball was played to Mahon who tried another powerful shot that took a cruel deflection off Ivar Ingimarsson and completely stranded Marcus Hahnemann.

Although Reading made a spirited and, eventually, successful recovery, in all honesty the quality of football from them and their high-flying opponents was grimly deficient. The rare exception brought about the 42nd-minute equaliser. James Harper swept a pass from midfield out to Glen Little on the right flank. Little made ground before crossing high and fast for Lloyd Owusu to power in a fine header.

By a small margin Wigan were still the more constructive side. Nevertheless, they became vulnerable to the speed of Reading's counterattacking. Little remained the player most likely to provide the platform and did so again shortly after half-time when his perceptive through-pass allowed Dean Morgan to run at goal, only for his low shot to be effectively turned on to the foot of the post by John Filan in the Wigan goal.

Filan needed to remain alert, pummelling down another drive from Morgan. Indeed, Reading tested him rather more than Wigan did Hahnemann because Wigan's shooting was, by and large, appalling.

If only Reading could hold the ball individually, retain possession meaningfully and then use their pace they would be so much more dangerous. Here, over the second half, they were constantly thumping the ball forward without much constructive purpose. In added time, they could even have lost this game when Nicky Shorey clipped the crossbar with a ferocious free-kick.

Wigan's manager, Paul Jewell, attempted to make light of it all: "People will say losing the lead will take the pressure off us, but I would welcome having it back again.

"We looked leg-weary today and need three or four more players. Reading made it difficult for us and even before the match I would have settled for a point," he said.

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