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Stoke City 2-2 Wigan Athletic (Wigan Fan's Perspective)

Sunday 1st January 2012
Wigan returned to the scene of their May great escape on the back of a 5-0 drubbing at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. If the United game was a tough one, then the trip to the Britannia was always going to be just as tough, for different reasons. Despite having his red card and three match overturned, Conor Sammon was replaced by Hugo Rodallega for Wigan's only change.

The visitors enjoyed the better of the first half and went in front on the stroke of half time. The impressive Ronnie Stam played a lovely ball through to Rodallega. The Columbian, who hasn't scored since "that" goal in May at the Britannia, ran into space down the right and played a perfect pass into the box into the path of the onrushing Victor Moses, who blasted past Sorensen to give Wigan the lead.

Although Stoke came into the game more in the second half, they never really looked like they were going to breach the Wigan defence. That was until skipper Gary Caldwell handled Jerome's effort, leading to the concession of a penalty. Like with the penalty Caldwell conceded against Liverpool, you have to ask what his hands were doing up there in the first place.

Somewhat harshly Caldwell was shown a red card by Michael Oliver. It seems Cameron Jerome got him sent off as the referee didn't seem to be going to his pocket until the former Birmingham and Cardiff striker waved an imaginary card in the referees direction. Jon Walters fired home from the spot to pull Stoke level. With ten men, Wigan had suddenly gone from look certs for victory, to hanging on for dear life for a point.

Inevitably, Stoke then went in front. Antolin Alcaraz was mistakenly drawn to the ball, leaving a huge space for Cameron Jerome to run into and put the ball beyond the reach of Al Habsi and give Stoke a 2-1 lead. In the space of seven crazy minutes Wigan's seemingly great end to the year was turning into a nightmare.

There was still time for some more drama. As Ronnie Stam launched a ball into the box, Hugo Rodallega was underneath it but in his attempts to wrestle from the attentions of Ryan Shotton, the Stoke defender had hold of Hugo's shirt. As Rodallega fell to the ground, referee Michael Oliver instantly awarded a spot kick.

With Jordi Gomez having been sacrificed for defender Steve Gohouri after the red card, there wasn't a recognised penalty taker on the pitch in Wigan colours. Ben Watson had been waiting to come on for several minutes in the lead up to the penalty award. Bizarrely, Watson replaced David Jones and his first job was to blast the penalty beyond Sorensen and pull ten-man Wigan back level. He showed great composure for someone who had only just stepped onto the pitch, especially when you consider he's missed two spot kicks already this season.
In the end a draw may have been a fair result but Wigan really did let three points slip from their grasp. Without the red card I feel the three points were a certainty. Stoke's only real threat was from set pieces, where they were utilising their long throws and incredible height in the box. It's not pretty to watch, but it's mighty effective and they play to their strengths.

It has to be said that referee Michael Oliver had an absolute howler of a game again. It's less than two weeks since I made a point of saying the game thing in my report after the Liverpool game. Today he was even worse. It was as though his default reaction to every 50/50 decision was to award Stoke a throw or a free kick. When set pieces are something that Stoke thrive on, that was mighty hard to take!

I'd have taken a point before the game but to come away with just one in the end felt harsh on Wigan. Having said that, we could easily have come away with nothing. I've said it a few times recently but you have to admire the character of this Wigan team. They just never know when they're beaten and the new system they're playing is playing to the strengths of many players in the squad. With the exception of a couple of results in the last few weeks, Wigan look a tough team to beat and are creating more chances into the bargain.

Sunderland will be a tough game this coming Tuesday and it brings another different type of test.  Sunderland are resurgent under Martin O'Neill and will be looking to avenge their loss to Wigan five weeks ago.

Stoke:  Sorensen, Wilkinson (Shotton 50), Shawcross, Huth, Wilson, Pennant, Delap, Palacios, Etherington (Jerome 73), Walters (Jones 90), Crouch.

Subs not used:  Begovic, Diao, Whitehead, Upson.

Booked:  Delap, Shotton.

Goals:  Walters 77 pen, Jerome 84.

Wigan:  Al Habsi, Stam, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa, Jones (Watson 86), Gomez (Gohouri 78), Diame, McCarthy, Moses, Rodallega.

Subs not used:  Pollitt, Crusat, Di Santo, McArthur, Sammon.

Sent off:  Caldwell (76).

Booked:  Moses, Stam,Rodallega.

Goals:  Moses 45, Watson 87 pen.

Star man: Maynor Figueroa

Att:  26,595

Ref:  Michael Oliver
Stuart Alker

Total articles: 31

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