Bruce admits he did not play his cards right

Wigan Athletic 0 Fulham 0
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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce blamed himself for a match that began as mediocre and could not maintain even that standard. By the end, yesterday's goalless draw resembled the stalest of mid-table stalemates.

Wigan's best hope of victory probably passed them by in the first half, when Bruce was forced into three substitutions. Thereafter the home side carried an air of having played all their cards, and the Latics manager was big enough to own up to taking a bad risk. His gamble on the fitness of Antonio Valencia and Mido caught him out. "I have to take a bit of blame," Bruce said. "One thing you can't do in the Premier League is play people half-fit. That's a mistake I take on board myself."

The three early substitutions robbed Wigan of momentum and made it a game that even a team with Fulham's desperate away record could, and probably should, have won.

The visitors started better, Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson working together up front to occasionally dangerous effect. Both had half-chances before two pieces of rare skillcreated opportunities for Mido.

The newly signed Colombian forward, Hugo Rodallega, was responsible for the first, supplying a disguised pass when the Fulham defence expected a shot. Mido forced a save at the base of the post. Then Maynor Figueroa curled in an inviting early cross that Mido was set to meet perfectly before heading wide. "A fit Mido would have scored," Bruce said.

The hard-working, unselfish and perpetually unlucky Zamora was agonisingly close with a header at the other end after Fulham defender Brede Hangeland flicked on at the near post.

Before half-time, however, either of the Latics' early substitutes could have given them the lead: Jason Koumas volleyed fiercely wide and Ben Watson also missed the target.

The second half was flat, the best chance coming when Zamora whipped in a low centre that Johnson could not force home. Zamora was replaced soon after, having run his proverbial blood to water. "Bobby needs a goal, but his confidence will have taken a boost from playing well today," said the Fulham manager, Roy Hodgson.

"I'm not overly pleased with a point. I would have been pleased with three and I thought our performance probably merited that. I'm a bit disappointed we couldn't convert our possession into a goal. It was a golden opportunity to break our away-win duck."

One bonus for Hodgson was that Olivier Dacourt made a good debut, playing for longer than was intended but showing well in the undistinguished surroundings of this contest.

Attendance: 21,798

Referee: Lee Probert

Man of the match: Zamora

Match rating: 3/10

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