Grant makes point with Pompey changes
Wigan Athletic 0 Portsmouth 0
Thursday 15 April 2010
Trouble continues to follow Portsmouth at every turn. Administration, relegation, desperate appeals to be allowed into the Europa League after reaching the FA Cup final and now surely the ire of Hull, Burnley, West Ham and Bolton over last night's team selection.
It remains to be seen what the Premier League, who gave Wolves a suspended fine of £25,000 for selecting a weakened team at Manchester United in December, think of Avram Grant making eight changes to the team that beat Tottenham in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final, giving two players Premier League debuts and naming just four players on the bench. Though it says much that a Wigan side that has won just three times in the league since the turn of the year failed to break Portsmouth down, a point, even whenfrom as forgettable a goalless draw as this one, means plenty at this stage of the season.
So frustrated were the Wigan players that Titus Bramble had to intervene in a skirmish between James McCarthy and Paul Scharner at half-time but Roberto Martinez's side are now five points clear of the relegation zone with four games left.
Thankfully only the smallest league crowd of the last two seasons at Wigan, 14,323, was watching, but Grant was indignant when he was asked whether the club might be in trouble, still clearly angry about the Premier League's refusal to allow him to sign players in January.
"I say to the Premier League not to ask us any questions, only to give us answers from what we need to ask," he said. "They can't ask us any questions, they left us with this squad and they need to answer our questions. Who left us with this squad? I said in January that this would happen. They allowed me to bring in one player and they pushed us to sell four players and the squad wasn't so good before. There's no case to answer but this season we're doing a lot of miracles and we're doing one, to come here with this team and draw 0-0."
It could have been even more remarkable but Tommy Smith's cross was glanced wide by Portsmouth newcomer Matthew Ritchie and Wigan finally found some spark when McCarthy, whose early play was unusually ragged, drilled in a low shot that was gathered by Pompey goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown at the second attempt.
Jason Scotland wasted a couple of decent chances from close range and in the second period Scharner's substitution was greeted with ironic applause from the Wigan fans before the Austrian headed straight down the tunnel.
Scotland glanced wide from N'Zogbia's cross and substitute Marcelo Moreno failed to score when Portsmouth had two players injured before McCarthy had a fine low effort pushed wide of goal by Ashdown.
Wigan's fans were furious but Roberto Martinez insisted it was not as terrible a result as it looks. "It was a very tricky game. The amount of changes that Portsmouth had to make didn't help at all," he said.
"They're used to adversity this season and you saw the reaction of the players. With the expectation, we were playing with your heart instead of your head."
Wigan Athletic (4-2-3-1): Kirkland; Melchiot, Gohouri, Bramble, Figueroa; McCarthy, Diame; N'Zogbia, Scharner (Moreno, 56), Rodallega; Scotland. Substitutes not used: Stojkovic (gk), Watson, Moses, Gomez, Sinclair, Boyce, .
Portsmouth (4-3-2-1): Ashdown; Vanden Borre, Rocha (Sowah h-t) , Wilson, Ward; Diop, Basinas, Brown; Smith, Ritchie (Piquionne, 79); Utaka. Substitutes not used: Pack, Yebda.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral)
Booked: Wigan Bramble, Scotland; Portsmouth: Vanden Borre
Man of the match: McCarrthy
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