Wigan Athletic 1 Portsmouth 0: Jewell looks to brighter days as fog descends over Portsmouth

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The Independent Football

It is the league within the League: take away the top four of the Premiership and there is little between the remaining teams. Sixteen points and 11 places separated Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth before this game at the JJB Stadium on Saturday but it is hard to argue with any conviction that one side is categorically better than the other.

A year ago it was the latter who were involved in a fight against relegation while the former dared to dream of Europe. Now the roles are reversed.

"Outside the top four you can almost toss a coin to decide who will win," said Paul Jewell, the Wigan manager.

His Pompey counterpart, Harry Redknapp, said: "There's nothing between the teams in this League after the top four. You toss the balls in the air and take your pick."

On that basis, perhaps it was little more than the law of averages that were at work on Saturday. Wigan had lost their previous eight League matches so they were due a win. They deserved to do so, displaying resilience in the face of adversity to claim their first three-point haul since early December. Pretty it was not, but with Portsmouth failing to create a chance worthy of the name, Lee McCulloch's fifth goal of the season was enough to take Wigan five points clear of West Ham United in 18th place.

"The biggest danger was the fog causing the game to be called off," said Jewell, who refused to allow McCulloch to join Rangers in the transfer window for £750,000. "They never got close to matching our valuation. If Rangers come back in the summer and Lee still wants to go and it's right for the club, then we'll see. But it's not like the player is desperately unhappy, and I can think of worse places for him to be than here."

Despite the striking difference in their League position, Jewell does not believe his team have been much worse this campaign than they were last season.

"I think the novelty value, if you like, wore off for the players and the supporters this year. And the other teams know more about us now. Things haven't gone our way. But last season is gone now and we've just got to make sure that next year we are still in the Premiership. Hopefully we can use this result as a springboard. Then again we've got Arsenal next week," he said.

As for Portsmouth, who are without a Premiership win since Boxing Day, their early-season form seems a long time ago and they now find themselves out of the top six for the first time. Below them, seven teams are now within six points.

"That was as poor as we've been all season," said Redknapp. "I don't know what happened. We want to finish the season strongly and that starts with our next game against Man City."

Goal: McCulloch (67) 1-0.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; R Taylor, Jackson, Boyce, Unsworth; Valencia (Hall, 60), Skoko, Landzaat, McCulloch; Folan, Aghahowa (Johansson, 86). Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Kilbane, Haestad.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Pamarot (M Taylor, 74); Lauren (LuaLua, 52), Mendes, Hughes, Douala; Kanu (Cole, 70), Mwaruwari. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Davis.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Booking: Wigan R Taylor.

Man of the match: Jackson.

Attendance: 15,093.