Hodgson happy as Wigan sink by the Thames
Fulham 2 Wigan Athletic 1
Monday 05 April 2010
There was a surprise result on the Thames 24 hours prior to this game, as Cambridge outpaced Oxford in the Boat Race, but Wigan Athletic's failure to make it two upsets in a weekend in southwest London, despite taking the lead, has left them still in very choppy, relegation-filled waters.
A fourth league win away from home – more than three months after their last – by Roberto Martinez's side would have gone a long way to casting off the shadow of the drop. When Jason Scotland, after 34 minutes, drove home his first ever top-flight league goal, it seemed a distinct possibility.
After all, Fulham have bigger fish to fry these days. With their Premier League status certain for another season, the Cottagers play the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final away against Wolfsburg on Thursday night. The Germans beat Hoffenheim 4-0 yesterday so must fancy their chances of overturning the 2-1 deficit.
Roy Hodgson's own confidence before the second leg enjoyed a boost too, with this win secured thanks to Brede Hangeland's first league goal of the season. They had pulled level with a flick from Stefano Okaka, the striker's first league goal too. Hodgson, more euphoric with every passing game, said: "This is one of the happiest days of my time at Fulham. Everything pointed to us losing but we won."
His mood was improved further by news that the club's top scorer Bobby Zamora, who was missing with a bruised Achilles heel, should be fit to face Wolfsburg. After the fiasco over Hodgson's team selection last week, when the Fulham manager didn't pick his best side against Hull, the London club were otherwise at full-strength. Not that it appeared that way up to Scotland's goal. Wigan's need for points was clearly the greater and when Mark Schwarzer spilled a cross outside the area, Paul Scharner's lob was headed off the line by Hangeland.
Schwarzer then tipped over Maynor Figueroa's shot and Wigan deserved their goal. Mario Melchiot crossed to Marcelo Moreno and the Bolivian headed down to Scotland, who beat the keeper at his near post.
A small number of Fulham fans seemed to boo their side off at half-time. "The crowd has been fantastic," Hodgson said afterwards, "but you hope people show some understanding for the level of difficulty we are faced with. There will be a time in these last six games when we will disappoint them. They don't deserve people shouting 'wake-up'. It is not a question of waking-up, it's a question of getting tired legs going again in a tough game."
Fulham's comeback started thanks to Scharner's failure to clear his area, one of two "lapses in concentration" highlighted by Martinez. The Austrian let in Zoltan Gera to cross for Okaka and nine minutes later Hangeland, from a Damien Duff corner, jumped highest to beat Chris Kirkland. Beat Wolfsburg and Hodgson will remember an even happier day than this.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Davies, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Duff, Murphy (Baird, 88), Etuhu, Dempsey; Gera, Elm (Okaka, h/t; Nevland, 88). Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler (gk), Shorey, Smalling, Greening.
Wigan Athletic (4-2-3-1): Kirkland; Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Figueroa; McCarthy, Diame; N'Zogbia (Watson, 85), Scotland (Moses, 61), Rodallega; Moreno (Sinclair, 85).
Substitutes not used: Stojkovic (gk), Gohouri, Amaya, Gomez.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Durham).
Bookings: Fulham Okaka; Wigan: Scharner, Figueroa.
Man of the Match: Hangeland.
Wigan's remaining games: 14 Apr Pompey (h), 18 Apr Arsenal (h), 24 Apr West Ham (a), 1 May Hull (h), 9 May Chelsea (a).
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