Wigan hope Cleverly deflection helps them change direction

Wigan Athletic 2 Stoke City 2
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The Independent Online

Wigan refused to be deflected from the task of trying to get out of the relegation zone in a lively affair. Twice behind in a match of unorthodox goals, they twice equalised and possibly deserved to win itin the end.

"I was extremely proud and pleased with the second-half performance," said their manager, Roberto Martinez. "It would have been easy to feel sorry for ourselves."

Latics remain in the bottom three, but at least showed the sort of fight that will be required to get them out of there. For seventh-placed Stoke, it was a case of onepoint that could so easilyhave been three.

"But we mustn't get ahead of ourselves," said Tony Pulis. "We mustn't get glib about picking up points away from home in this division. We created good chances, they created good chances. I thought it was a very open game."

If the first half was occasionally low on quality, it was high on goal-mouth incident – although often of a rather random nature.

The first evidence of the inadvertent touch as the dominant factor in the contest was the goal that put Stoke ahead after 18 minutes. It was the most innocuous of free-kicks, struck from 30 yards out by Robert Huth without particular venom, but a deflection off Mohamed Diamé in the Wigan wall left Ali Al-Habsi helpless. The equaliser also owed plenty to good fortune and the bounce of the ball,Ben Watson's low free-kick deflecting to the Wigan captain, Antolin Alcaraz, and deviating again on its way into the net.

Latics were level for only a minute, thanks to Kenwyne Jones' inspired battle to keep the ball in play on the right touchline and move it forward to his strike partner, Ricardo Fuller. He pulled it back from the byline, where it fell –with the help of a deflection, naturally – for Matthew Etherington to glide home.

Maynor Figueroa had a shot saved and Hendry Thomas failed to put away the inviting rebound, but Wigan levelled for the second time through Tom Cleverley.

The young midfielder, on loan from Manchester United and capable of doing a number of things just as his surname suggests, took Figueroa's pass, turned away from his marker and curled in a shot which might have found the net unassisted. Another ricochet off a Stoke defender made certain and ensured that the dubious goals panel will be kept busy this week, with this match alone.

The second half was an orderly affairby comparison, although Jones could have given Stoke the lead fora third time witha firm, downward header, brilliantly saved by Al-Habsi.

The latter stages were a story of Charles N'Zogbia trying to win it single-handed for Wigan and almost succeeding.

Noticeably more effective when switched to his natural left side, heset up chances for Ronnie Stam and Cleverley that they could not take and then cut in to have a potential match-winner finger-tipped on tothe post by Asmir Begovic. What it was short of was a lucky deflection.

Attendance: 15,100

Referee: Michael Jones

Man of the match: N'Zogbia

Match rating: 7/10

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