REPORT: ZULTE 0 LATICS 0
Wigan Athletic produced a valiant performance in their first ever European fixture on Thursday evening, holding Belgian top flight side Zulte Waregem to a goalless draw at the Jan Breydel Stadion in Bruge.
A combination of some expert goalkeeping from Scott Carson and brave defending in the second half helped keep Francky Dury’s attacking side at bay, whilst Latics’ attacking play caused problems for the frail Belgian backline.
James McArthur and Jordi Gomez capitalised on a bright start by the visitors by firing efforts goalwards in the opening ten minutes but seeing them curl agonisingly wide, with McArthur’s shot clipping the outside of the woodwork.
Nick Powell was handed a full debut for the club in one of seven changes made by Owen Coyle from the previous game against Leicester City, and together with fellow debutant Ryan Shotton, gave a good account of himself in the auxiliary attacker role, playing with strength up front but frustrated on a couple of occasions on a slippery surface.
Zulte grew into the game and after James McClean had headed against his own crossbar from a Thorgan Hazard corner, had the best chance of the night, when Ibrahima Conte found space at the back post, hit his shot into the ground but was denied by an excellent reflex save from Carson.
They looked stronger after the break and creative in the final third, but could not find a way though a resolute Latics rearguard, supported by the likes of James McArthur and Chris McCann. Latics had much to thank McCann for after the final whistle, after his block at point-blank range in the final ten minutes prevented Karel D’Haerne from a certain goal.
With the play opening up towards the final whistle, chances came and went for both sides, with Latics looking to hit Zulte on the counter attack and finding themselves in a number of promising positions, forcing a couple of smart saves from Sammy Bossut in the opposition goal.
In the end, the 2,500 travelling fans who were buoyant throughout the whole day in the town centre and in voice inside the stadium, none more so than when they were saluted by Chairman Dave Whelan prior to kick off, left the Jan Breydel Stadion more than satisfied with the performance of their team ahead of Sunday’s Championship fixture against Ipswich Town at the DW Stadium.