Fulham 1 Wigan Athletic 1: Cottage is at home with Lewington's passing game

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The Independent Football

The post-Lawrie Sanchez era at Fulham is still a matter of speculation. Will the old crowd favourite Ray Lewington, now acting as caretaker manager at Craven Cottage for the third time in his career, be offered the job on a full-time basis? Well, he is not ruling it out, but he is not holding his breath, especially as he has been guaranteed a place on the coaching staff whatever the new appointment.

Meanwhile, many-tongued rumour flies through the city, mentioning the former Fulham midfielder John Collins, who, with apparent convenience, has just quit his job at Hibernian, and others such as Glenn Hoddle and Martin Jol. One name which has dropped out of the reckoning is the Croatia manager, Slaven Bilic. The former West Ham defender announced yesterday that there was "absolutely no chance" of him taking another job before next year's European Championships.

All Lewington can do in the interim, as he looks forward if that is the correct phrase to the Boxing Day visit to Spurs, is to concentrate on maximising the team's performance in an effort to keep them out of the position in the bottom three to which three successive defeats in Sanchez's final games had consigned them. This point, against one of the two teams below them in the table, was less than was hoped for, but with the club chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed, looking on intently from the stands beneath the peak of a red baseball cap, it was at least not the disaster which appeared imminent after the home defence, and Carlos Bocanegra in particular, had allowed Marcus Bent scorer of a hat-trick in the previous weekend's 5-3 win over Blackburn Rovers to drift free at the far post and put Wigan ahead in the 69th minute.

Fulham looked as if they were about to pay the price for missing a succession of chances in what was an enterprising first half, but a 77th-minute equaliser from the hyperactive American, Clint Dempsey, raised a huge roar of home approval.

The reaction of the crowd at the end was markedly more supportive than that which had greeted the calamitous defeat by Newcastle the previous week. The applause acknowledged the patent effort the team had put in, and perhaps also the return to a more traditional, passing-based style, which was something Lewington tried to implement in the wake of Sanchez's direct tactics that were learned in his old days as a Wimbledon player and used to telling effect more recently in his time as the Northern Ireland manager.

"All managers are different, and I tried to put my stamp on things," said Lewington. "I basically said let's have a pass in between the ones we usually have. Rather than pushing the ball straight forwards, let's move it around more in midfield. I thought we played some nice stuff at times, although given the position both teams are in it was always going to be a difficult match."

Lewington remained neutral about whether he would still be in charge for the Spurs game. "It is so important to stay in the Premier League and the pressure is on," he said. "I am realistic enough to know they will probably look outside, and I am OK with that. If that is the case I will just get on with my job".

Goals: Bent (69) 0-1; Dempsey (77) 1-1.

Fulham (4-4-2): Niemi; Omuzusi (Baird, 58), Hughes, Bocanegra, Konchesky; Davies, Murphy, Davis (Healy, 58), Bouazza (Kuqi, 71); Dempsey, Kamara. Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Seol.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Boyce, Scharner, Bramble, Kilbane; Valencia, Landzaat, Brown, Taylor (Olembe, 85); Aghahowa (Sibierski, 62), Bent. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Granqvist, Skoko.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Man of the match: Dempsey.

Attendance: 20,820.

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