Clint Dempsey may be forever remembered as the scourge of England after his goal in the World Cup – not forgetting Rob Green's contribution – but his two strikes here were an impressive demonstration that he does not always need such help from the opposition to get his name on the scoresheet.
A header, guided inside the far post, and a thumping shot 15 minutes later were belated proof that with the American leading the line Fulham can win without Bobby Zamora.
It has been seven weeks and as many games since they lost Zamora to injury, against Wolverhampton early last month, which was also their previous win. If they can beat Aston Villa, the visitors next weekend, that will be more convincing proof of Fulham's credentials, because Wigan offered nothing in the way of a test. On Hallowe'en eve it was frightful stuff, and Roberto Martinez agreed. The Wigan manager said: "We deserved nothing, it was our worst performance of the season. There was no energy, we were flat and very weak."
Fulham's first move of genuine intent brought its deserved reward. Two quick passes saw Zoltan Gera move the ball out to Carlos Salcido and Dempsey angled his header from the Mexican's cross inside Ali al-Habsi's far post. That was after 30 minutes, and in the next 15 minutes Fulham could have scored more – through Gera, who hit the post, and Dempsey again – before Dempsey got his second. Chris Baird's low cross was the cue for the American, who timed his effort perfectly. Al-Habsi could have had Green in goal alongside him and neither would have been able to get anywhere near it.
Mark Hughes, scorer of a fair few goals himself in his heyday, praised the build-up as much as the strikes themselves, claiming that was proof of how his sideare developing.
Dempsey's second goal came just before half-time, but could not have changed the manner of Martinez's team-talk. He took off the ineffective Franco Di Santo and brought on Jordi Gomez, but he would have needed at least double his permitted three substitutionsto make any improvement.
Only Charles N'Zogbia, twice from long range, troubled Mark Schwarzer, with the Australian tipping a free-kick from 35 yards over the crossbar. Not that the referee saw it that way, only giving a goal-kick. That summed up Wigan's afternoon.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Dempsey
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content