Wigan Athletic 1 Fulham 1: Heskey falls to earth after England high

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The Independent Football

There will not be many football fans, particularly England fans, who do not sympathise with striker Emile Heskey this morning after a week that had appeared to signal his renaissance as an international player ended with the agony of a broken foot and the knowledge that his chance to lead Steve McClaren's team into next summer's European Championship finals had been cruelly taken from him.

After a first scan on Saturday evening proved inconclusive, a second scan yesterday confirmed that the 29-year-old former Liverpool forward, recalled from a three-year international exile to reform a match-winning partnership with Michael Owen as England swept aside Israel and then Russia at Wembley last week, had suffered a fracture to the fifth metatarsal of his right foot.

It is an injury with a painfully familiar ring to it as far as England are concerned. David Beckham, Gary Neville, Owen himself, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney have all fallen victim to similar damage during the last five years.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan described the fracture as "not serious" but felt Heskey was unlikely to have recovered in time for England's next qualifying matches on the road to Euro 2008, at home to Estonia and away to Russia next month.

After Rooney was hurt at the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal, the Manchester United striker was out for 14 weeks. Owen took 17 weeks to recover after his fifth metatarsal was broken in 2005 and Neville was absent for almost six months after his 2002 injury.

Heskey is certain to miss next month's Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia at Wembley and Russia in Moscow and would need to heal as fast as Beckham in 2002 to stand a chance of lining up against Croatia at Wembley in November in England's final group match.

It took only a few minutes for Heskey's euphoria to be punctured on Saturday after he had emerged from the tunnel at the JJB Stadium to an ovation. His recall had made him Wigan's first senior England international and the Lancashire club's fans gave him a fitting welcome.

But after landing awkwardly from an aerial challenge, his right ankle rolling under his weight, he limped off after nine minutes.

"It is very disappointing for Emile," said the Wigan manager, Chris Hutchings. "If he has done a lot of damage he will clearly be out for a while."

In his absence, a Wigan side already lacking Antonio Valencia and Denny Landzaat were lucky to land a point after Jason Koumas converted a penalty 10 minutes from time.

Fulham had gone ahead when American international Clint Dempsey swept home his third goal of the season after 11 minutes.

With Aaron Hughes giving an accomplished performance on a debut delayed by a pre-season injury, Fulham looked unlikely to concede even with Marcus Bent, Heskey's replacement, launching his year-long loan from Charlton in determined style.

They should have made the points theirs early in the second period, when Dempsey had two chances to increase his tally. But a foul on Mario Melchiot by Hameur Bouazza handed Wigan a lifeline that Koumas grasped confidently from the spot.

Goals: Dempsey (11) 0-1; Koumas pen (80) 1-1.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Granqvist, Bramble, Boyce; Cotterill (Skoko, 60), Brown, Scharner, Koumas; Heskey (Bent, 9), Sibierski (Aghahowa, 74). Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Hall.

Fulham (4-4-2): Niemi; Baird, Hughes, Bocanegra, Konchesky; Davies (Murphy, 84), Smertin, Davis, Bouazza (Seol, 84); Dempsey, Kamara (Healy, 67). Substitutes not used: Keller, Stefanovic.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Wigan Skoko.

Man of the match: Hughes.

Attendance: 16,973.

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