Bravery is not enough for Martinez's foreign legion
Wigan Athletic 1 Everton 1
Monday 02 May 2011
It is tempting to consider Wigan Athletic a poor man's Arsenal – and not just for the youthful, multi-national make-up of their team. In Roberto Martinez, they have a manager who, like Arsène Wenger, believes his team have been short on luck this season but who is sticking resolutely to his principles, even with the relegation trapdoor yawning.
Wigan lie third-bottom, trailing Blackpool on goal difference, but they are still trying to play their way out of peril and their efforts earned the applause of Martinez despite the frustration of two dropped points against Everton.
The Spaniard said: "When you are in a relegation battle and you want to play football you need to have real heart. The hardest thing is to get on the ball and be brave to link up play and open teams up.
"The bravery was magnificent. I thought we did everything we had to do to win the game – probably the key was when we created chances in the second half – we had to get that second goal which gives you the three points."
Wigan have beaten top-10 opposition only once this term but must have thought a second victory beckoned when first Charles N'Zogbia capitalised on James McCarthy's clever pass to curl them in front and then goalkeeper Ali al-Habsi saved Mikel Arteta's spot-kick, following N'Zogbia's foul on the lively Leon Osman.
There was plenty of craft and endeavour from a Wigan midfield and attack – all aged 25 or under – but, as Martinez lamented, they failed to take advantage of their superiority in a second period where substitute Victor Moses caught the eye along with Everton's busy goalkeeper, Tim Howard.
Unfortunately for Wigan, they not only backed up the pre-game statistic showing they had the division's lowest shots-to-goals conversion rate, but also proved rather more accurate at shooting themselves in the foot.
Everton, whose faint hopes of catching Liverpool effectively ended with this draw, "didn't look like scoring," according to defender Phil Jagielka yet received the lifeline of a second spot-kick when Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega handled a Leighton Baines corner. Baines, who played for Wigan in three divisions in a six-year spell, duly denied his old team victory.
"I don't think we have had much luck this season, we've had to work really hard for everything and today's performance was a reflection of that. You won't see many penalties like that but that's just the anxiety and how much the players care," said Martinez.
With the Spaniard targeting five more points, their ability to continue playing in the face of anxiety will be pivotal – not least when West Ham come to the DW Stadium for Wigan's final home game on Sunday week.
Referee L Mason (Lancashire). Att 17,051.
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