Fulham had been making a habit of recovering to take points out of seemingly hopeless situations. Yesterday, playing poorly throughout, they gave themselves virtually no chance of doing so again when conceding a goal in the 83rd minute after seeing Wigan miss a penalty.
Wigan had spent the week revelling in the accolades that had followed their 4-0 defeat of Manchester City and Fulham have a similar disposition. So, not surprisingly, there was a fusion of industry that both sides found hard to lighten with originality. Only Henri Camara, the goalscorer, excelled.
Wigan seemed the more likely to bring some imagination to the early labours, though only marginally. They offered the pace of Camara, who absolutely spun Zac Knight in only the fifth minute, then ran some 25 yards at dazzling speed before forcing Antti Niemi to deflect his bending shot wide.
Most of Fulham's possession ended fruitlessly. They rarely had the ball where and when it mattered, and for half an hour they gave Wigan's goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, no cause for alertness, let alone alarm. Then Claus Jensen attacked at speed down the left side before cutting across the edge of the penalty area and flighting a shot close. The left flank offered Fulham further space as Tomasz Radzinski sprinted away and centred pitch high. Brian McBride could not stretch far enough to accept the invitation.
Whatever both managers said at half-time, it had some effect. Moritz Volz came storming out of the Fulham defence to run two-thirds of the pitch. At least that spurred his side into raising some organised pressure. Indeed, they panicked Kevin Kilbane into side-footing dangerously close to his goal before Wigan themselves thrust forward, with Camara again their spearhead. His header bounced in such a way that their fans were convinced it crossed the line. Niemi anxiously pushed it away and cast a worried glance at the referee, Graham Poll, who noted that the linesman was not inclined to give a goal.
The frustrated home crowd had their hopes raised when Luis Boa Morte came off the bench for his first appearance since suffering a cheekbone injury five weeks ago. However, it was Wigan who at that stage were more enterprising.
When Emmerson Boyce hit a low ball into a crowded Fulham penalty area, Niemi got one hand to it. Camara, sharp as ever, stabbed at the shot which struck the arm of Knight. Mr Poll awarded a penalty and booked Knight, but justice was done when Denny Landzaat hit the crossbar.
Fulham then made a meal of their defending. Camara had gone in pursuit of a long clearance that Franck Queudrue attempted to clear but completely missed. Camara was able to run on, and though Niemi got a hand on the ensuing shot it was insufficient to stop the ball sinking into the net.
Paul Jewell, the Wigan manager, was relieved. "We were in danger of coming away with nothing, which would have been a crime." Fulham's Chris Coleman agreed. "They always had the better chances. We didn't deserve anything out of this."Reuse content