Wigan Athletic 1 Portsmouth 0: McCulloch sticks around to wreak revenge on Pompey

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The Independent Online

The only two matches Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth have won between them in 2007 have come by default when they have faced each other.

Yesterday, Wigan deservedly avenged last month's FA Cup defeat and in so doing finally ended their club record eight-game losing streak in the League, as well the possibility of a third defeat to Portsmouth this season.

A game between two out-of-form sides was never likely to be classic, but Paul Jewell will scarcely be concerned about that considering his side had not won anywhere for almost two months.

A fifth goal of the season from Scotland international Lee McCulloch, who wanted to join Rangers during the transfer window, proved enough to earn Wigan their first three-point haul since winning at West Ham nine long games ago. Better still from their point of view, all the bottom three lost, as did the side above them - Sheffield United.

"It was a good job the offer for Lee wasn't too good to refuse," said Jewell. "Hopefully we can use this as a springboard. It was a fully deserved victory and if we show that level of determination for the rest of the season then we'll be OK."

The game was played in deteriorating fog. Despite these quint-essentially British conditions, the match had a distinctly African feel to it with two Cameroonians, two Nigerians and a Zimbabwean on the field. Yet for all the exotic talents on show, the opening half's central figure was a young English striker signed from Chesterfield.

Caleb Folan was part of a new-look strike force alongside debutant Julius Aghahowa. He almost scored the opening goal, meeting a second-minute corner with a powerful header, and was put through on goal by Aghahowa only for a combination of Sol Campbell's rapid recovery and Folan's lack of conviction to allow the defender to make a tackle.

Portsmouth did play with more urgency for a while early in the second half with Roudolphe Douala, on his full Premiership debut, looking their most likely source of a goal. He had too much pace for Ryan Taylor - particularly after the defender had been booked for holding - but never quite produced a telling final ball. A goalless draw seemed the most likely result until midway through the second half when the ever-willing Folan caused confusion despite being surrounded by Portsmouth defenders. The ball broke for McCulloch to shoot home from just inside the area and earn his side three priceless points.

As for Portsmouth, who started the season in such style, they have now taken only two points from their past five Premiership games. They created almost nothing, save a couple of shots straight at Chris Kirkland, and seem to be slowly sliding into mid-table obscurity.

"That's as poorly as we've played all season," said Harry Redknapp, the Portsmouth manager. "I don't know what happened. They deserved to win and were far better than us."

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