Johnson rediscovers scoring touch to deny Wigan

Wigan Athletic 1 Fulham 1
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The Independent Football

Opposite Gala Bingo on the Robin Park retail complex they were playing relegation roulette yesterday. It remains a long way from click time in the nether region of the Premier League, but such are the margins between those imperilled that a single winning shot might prove precious come May.

It looked like Hugo Rodallega had delivered one as the contest entered its final five minutes, with Wigan leading courtesy ofa 57th minute lob by their Colombian centre-forward. But then came a blast from the past.

Back in action as a 76th-minute substitute after his latest injury setback – a hamstring tear – Fulham's Andy Johnson came to the rescue of Mark Hughes's side. Fastening on to a pass from Clint Dempsey, the one-time England striker's right-foot shot took a deflection off Gary Caldwell and was almost palmed clear by Ali Al-Habsi before hitting the back of the home net.

Having been absent for much of the past 18 months – principally because of a knee problem – Johnson was due a change of fortune. This was his first goal since August 2009, when he scored against Amkar Perm in the Europa League, and his first in the Premier League since a visit to Bolton on 14 March 2009.

"That will have done Andy the world of good," Hughes said. "Now he's up and running I hope he keeps scoring until the end of the season."

It was a fair result between two fairly evenly matched teams, especially after both had squandered gilt-edged chances in the first half. From a right-wing cross by Ronnie Stam, Rodallega planted a header against the left post. At the other end, Dempsey put Damien Duff in the clear only for the Irish winger to side-foot his finish against the right foot of the advancing Al-Habsi.

It was a good save as much as a bad miss and Al-Habsi, on loan from Bolton, proceeded to produce a man-of-the-match performance. He gave the assist for Rodallega's goal, the striker latching on to his up-field punt before lobbing a scoring shot over David Stockdale.

Then Al-Habsi produced top-drawer reflex saves to deny Duff and Dempsey. He was beaten by Dempsey in the 78th minute but the effort was deemed invalid as the Texan forward had handled before scrambling the ball home.

There is only one F in Fulham, and their fans were still effing and blinding about perceived injustice when Johnson's equalising shot landed in the net.

Attendance: 18,820

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Man of the match: Al-Habsi

Match rating: 6/10