If Charlie Adam's move from Blackpool to Liverpool was a step too far, there is evidence that he may have found his level again with a debut that raised the promise that Stoke's unloved brand of method football may now come with a touch of creative style.
Tony Pulis's preferences are well known. He likes a player prepared to roll up his sleeves above one who indulges himself with moments of inventiveness. Adam, though, is different, coming with a bit of both. He is not the greatest athlete, yet he does not shirk and has the gift to see a match-winning pass.
Left on the bench but introduced before half-time, Adam made a significant impact, even if he could not quite swing the result in Stoke's favour. When his 85th-minute free- kick was deflected towards goal by the head of defender Steven Caldwell, Ali Al-Habsi stuck out his right arm to produce a breathtaking save.
Adam, who scored only twice in 37 appearances for Liverpool, was thus denied again but there was a sense of release in the way he played, stemming perhaps from the feeling that Pulis will regard him as the main component of his midfield, rather than just a cog in the wheel.
"He is a good passer of the ball and fingers crossed after the international break, he will come back and get bedded in to what we want to do and the way we want to use him and be a big asset to the club," Pulis said.
"He played well but overall I thought we took the game to Wigan, and that on the balance of chances we could have won it. That save by Al-Habsi was a wonder save."
It came after Pulis's second substitute, Cameron Jerome, had played a role in creating the equaliser their manager felt was the least they deserved. Shielding the ball from a throw-in, Jerome released Jonathan Walters to cross to the far post for Peter Crouch to head home.
Wigan had twice been ahead, the first time from a penalty awarded when a shot from James McCarthy struck the hand of Robert Huth. Stoke complained, but when Shaun Maloney beat Asmir Begovic from the spot it was a fair reflection not just of the first five minutes but of the opening half hour, when Stoke's four-man midfield struggled to make an impression.
Pulis switched things around but Andy Wilkinson looked uncomfortable in midfield on the right and it was not long before Adam's name was being chanted by visiting fans who had been surprised that he had only a place on the bench, given his pre-match insistence that he was fully fit and ready to start.
The loss of Jean Beausejour to a hamstring injury disrupted Wigan and helped Stoke. Beausejour had linked well with Franco di Santo, who in turn seemed to be developing a promising partnership with Arouna Kone.
It was at this point that Adam made his entry, replacing Wilkinson, who had suffered a blow to the head. Within moments he was making his presence felt and it was no coincidence that, within minutes,
Stoke were level, after another handball, this time awarded against Maynor Figueroa, gave Walters the opportunity from the penalty spot.
Wigan regained the lead early in the second half. Kone, pushing the ball past Marc Wilson and out-pacing him along the flank, held off two challenges but looked to have nowhere to go. He found an outlet, though, in Di Santo, who arrived at the edge of the Stoke box, and drove the ball to the right of Begovic.
Wigan looked as though they might make it count, yet for the last 20 minutes Stoke were the stronger side. In between Crouch's goal and Al Habsi's save, Jerome might have scored but for the goalkeeper's reactions, likewise Crouch had not Caldwell blocked the follow-up.
Wigan Athletic (3-4-1-2): Al Habsi; Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa; Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur (Watson, 78), Beausejour (Jones, 28); Maloney; Kone, Di Santo (Miyaichi, 79).
Stoke City (4-4-2): Begovic; Wilkinson (Adam, 36), Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Whitehead, Cameron, Whelan, Kightly (Jerome, 75); Crouch, Walters.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Charlie Adam (Stoke)
Match rating: 8/10
Tony Pulis left Charlie Adam his £4 million capture on the bench initially but introduced him before half-time and the Scot, oozing confidence and authority, took charge in midfield immediately.Reuse content