Bargain-buy Watson puts Wigan on song for Europe

Wigan Athletic 1 Hull City 0
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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce is not a manager to allow expectations to grow unchecked but even he believes that Wigan could find themselves playing in Europe next season after climbing over West Ham into seventh place in the League. Should they finish there it may be enough to qualify for the Europa League and Bruce feels Wigan's remaining matches offer them a clear opportunity. Given the loss of Emile Heskey and Wilson Palacios during the January transfer window, to be in contention is an achievement.

"To be in this position with eight games left is terrific but if you look at the games we have left there are five against teams who are around the bottom of the table," Bruce said. "It will be tough but it is possible."

Hull, meanwhile, are still fretting about relegation after Ben Watson's goal six minutes from the end left Phil Brown's side still vulnerable on 33 points. The former Crystal Palace midfielder, who moved north for £1.5m in January, is settling in well after a slow start and found the target for the second time in as many matches.

"I made a huge boob with Ben by putting him in the side after he came when he had not played for six and a half weeks because of injury but now he is looking a snip," Bruce said. "I expect I'll have Simon Jordan [the Palace chairman] on the phone claiming he has been done."

Wigan were the better side in the first half, creating half a dozen chances to go ahead, with Hugo Rodallega catching the eye. But Hull, after losing two defenders to injury in the first hour, recovered well enough to suggest they might steal the win despite Amr Zaki's header hitting their woodwork.

Brown believes his promoted team can be naive and felt it was this that cost them the decisive goal, after Matt Duke had left his goal to punch away Mario Melchiot's long throw. "We didn't deal with the second ball and it is that kind of mistake we need to learn from," Brown said. In the event, Watson saw Duke out of position and lobbed over the goalkeeper's head.

Wigan lost Charles N'Zogbia after a collision with Kamil Zayatte just before half-time and await a condition report on the winger.

Goal: Watson (84) 1-0.

Wigan Athletic (4-5-1): Kirkland; Melchiot, Boyce, Bramble, Figueroa; Rodallega, Watson, Scharner (Kapo, 77), Brown, N'Zogbia (De Ridder, h-t); Mido (Zaki, 72). Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Kingson (gk), Edman, Cho.

Hull City (4-4-2): Duke; Ricketts, Turner, Zayatte (Folan, 60), Dawson (Garcia, 37); Mendy, Marney, Geovanni, Kilbane; Fagan (Halmosi, 82), Manucho. Substitutes not used: Myhill (gk), Doyle, France, Barmby.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Booked: Wigan Athletic Bramble; Hull City Ricketts, Mendy, Fagan.

Man of the match: Watson.

Attendance: 17,689.

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