Pulis ready for 'biggest' game against Blackpool

Wigan 2 Stoke City 2
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The Independent Football

A game with enough ricochets to wreck a pinball table ended level thanks to two magnificent saves. Two of the Premier League's unfashionable sides shared four goals that all owed something to an inadvertent contribution from the opposition.

Either of them might have won it with a spectacularly clean-cut goal had it not been for the two keepers.

Ali Al Habsi, on loan from Bolton, is not everybody's cup of tea and on Saturday his clearances were frequently erratic. Yet nine minutes into the second half he showed remarkable agility to get a hand to Kenwyne Jones's perfectly executed header.

Seven minutes from time, Asmir Begovic matched that effort. Charles N'Zogbia was on a personal mission to win the game for Latics and looked as though he had done so when he cut in from the left and unleashed a shot. The flying Begovic steered the ball onto the post and away.

Having led twice, the Stoke manager Tony Pulis could have found a draw frustrating but that was not his mood. A point left City in seventh place, well ahead of where he envisaged them being when he drew up a three-year plan after their promotion.

"This league is the most difficult to stay in, because of this year's promoted teams," he said. "Next week's game against Blackpool is our biggest of the season."

A defeat would have been Wigan's 100th in the Premier League. The draw left them in the bottom three, but the good news for Roberto Martinez was that they showed resilience, matched the physicality of Stoke and, in N'Zogbia, had an island of class in the proceedings.

The Latics manager paid tribute to the way he has knuckled down since failing to get a move in the last transfer window. The pleasure of seeing him play this way on Saturday must be tempered by knowing that the window will soon be open again.

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