Johnson brings up century to sink Wigan

Fulham 2 Wigan Athletic 0
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The Independent Online

Career milestones for a player do not always coincide with good things for his team but in this case Andy Johnson's double strike meant he had his 100th and 101st league goals, which also directed Fulham to their first win in six games. Having started out with Birmingham, before going on to Crystal Palace, then Everton, these goals were, only slightly less significantly, the 27-year-old's first since joining the London club in the summer.

That transfer cost Fulham £10.5m, money that Roy Hodgson may have begun to feel was not all that well spent. The Fulham manager said the eight-times capped England international, on his sixth league start, was lacking confidence, having started the campaign injured and then been sent off. His cause was helped at Craven Cottage as he found one assistant referee and one Wigan defender most compliant in achieving his landmark.

But Hodgson praised Johnson for the way he took his goals, saying: "I thought they were typical of him. The way he got behind the defender for his first and met the straight ball for his second. He's got a low centre of gravity and has pace and skill. This was an important victory."

The visitors' confidence, and defence in particular, is clearly fragile, but their cause was not helped after only 10 minutes. The assistant should have seen Johnson was two yards offside before Paul Konchesky delivered his cross, but he failed to spot it and Johnson tapped past Chris Kirkland from five yards. Hodgson admitted, "to my shame," he did not know Johnson was so close to a century but the player revealing a T-shirt saying "100 league goals" told him what he needed to know.

It was his 101st that did the most damage, killing any hope Wigan or their manager Steve Bruce had of claiming anything from this game. This was their fourth consecutive defeat and except for their fine performance against Liverpool at Anfield recently, they are suffering a serious slump. An honest Bruce, in charge for 11 months, called it, "arguably the worst performance since I've been here".

After the linesman's ineptitude, Wigan had no-one else to blame but themselves for the decisive second strike. From a free-kick 35 yards out Jimmy Bullard, once of Wigan, played the ball behind a dawdling Paul Scharner and Johnson showed speed of mind to roll his shot into the far corner. "Eleven-year-olds don't defend like that," snorted Bruce.

Wigan's threat was minimal, as were Fulham's mistakes, and the Cottagers have eased themselves away from the relegation zone. The visitors' best spell came before half-time, when Maynor Figueroa sent a fierce shot just past the post and Scharner headed wide from six yards after Amr Zaki's perfect cross. Target practice is clearly much needed.

Goals: Johnson (10) 1-0; Johnson (60) 2-0.

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Davies, Bullard (Baird, 88), Murphy, Gera (Dempsey, 72); Johnson (Nevland, 90), Zamora. Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler, Gray, Stoor, Andreasen.

Wigan (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Boyce, Scharner, Figueroa (Koumas, 62); Valencia, Palacios (Camara, 80), Cattermole (De Ridder, 80), Kilbane; Zaki, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Pollitt, Taylor, Koumas, Brown, Bramble.

Referee: H Webb (Yorkshire).

Booked: Wigan Kilbane.

Man of the match: Davies.

Attendance: 22,500.

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