REPORT: WIGAN ATHLETIC 2 LEICESTER 2
Latics went so close to inflicting a first defeat in 19 games on Championship leaders Leicester City on Tuesday evening, though Dean Hammond’s 86th minute equaliser earned the Foxes a share of the spoils in an outstanding display of football at the DW Stadium.
Ivan Ramis gave Latics the lead before Andy King levelled for Leicester four minutes before the break.
However, Rob Kiernan’s first Latics goal looked to have won it for Uwe Rosler’s side before Hammond headed home in the closing stages to steer Nigel Pearson’s side closer to promotion to the Premier League.
Rosler made five changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Bolton Wanderers on Saturday with Nick Powell, scorer of Latics’ equaliser at the Reebok Stadium, restored to the starting XI.
Ramis, Kiernan, Nicky Maynard and Jack Collison all came back in whilst Shaun Maloney featured in a matchday squad for the first time since Latics’ visit to Leicester in September.
The Foxes made six changes from the side that defeated Burnley 2-0 at the weekend with the injured Jamie Vardy replaced by Chris Wood, who scored in the win over the Clarets, whilst Liam Moore and Paul Konchesky returned in defence.
King, Dean Hammond and Lloyd Dyer were also recalled to the Leicester starting XI by boss Pearson.
The Foxes were full of intent from the off and went closing to opening the scoring on three minutes as Moore headed Anthony Knockaert’s free-kick across goal before Powell cleared off the line.
Latics were keen to get bodies forward when in possession and, after Stephen Crainey won an early corner, Ramis headed wide from Jordi Gomez’s take after rising well.
The hosts continued to attack with pace and, after Maynard scuffed Powell’s cut-back away from goal, Gomez fired narrowly over from Crainey’s cut-back.
Foxes’ top-scorer David Nugent had a great chance to open the scoring in the ninth minute as Konchesky’s cross found the former England international eight yards out but he fired straight at Ali Al Habsi.
Latics went close themselves minutes later as Maynard forced a fine save from Kasper Schmeichel with a glancing header.
Rosler’s side continued the pressure from the resulting corner as Powell headed against bar at the back post before the on-rushing Gomez fired narrowly wide when he picked up on the loose ball.
The opening quarter-hour belonged to Latics, though Leicester should have gone ahead when Ritchie De Laet found space to meet Knockaert’s corner before heading over.
James McArthur’s midfield energy created another chance for Maynard as the Scot dispossessed Hammond before feeding in the Cardiff City loanee who crashed a shot into the side-netting.
Collison was the next to go close for Latics with the Welsh international excellently denied by Schmeichel in the Leicester goal after playing a neat give and go with Powell saw the West Ham loanee in behind the Foxes’ defence.
Some brilliant defending from Emmerson Boyce denied Knockaert on the left-hand side as the Belgian countered for the visitors before Latics broke up the other end themselves with Powell firing narrowly over from 22 yards.
King was presented with a great chance to open the scoring just after the half-hour as Nugent set the ball to the Welshman ten yards out though he mis-cued his shot and the ball went out for a Latics throw-in.
Ramis bagged his first goal of the season to give Latics the lead as he headed fellow Spaniard Gomez’s cross past Schmeichel from ten yards after Gomez himself had been fouled by Hammond, who was booked for the challenge, 30 yards from goal on the left-hand side.
However, the Foxes did to Latics what Rosler’s side have done so often to other sides this season, by replying immediately through King who found space inside the area to curl into Al Habsi’s left-hand corner off the inside of the post.
Leicester finished the first-half as the stronger side with Konchesky’s 20-yard drive forcing a smart save from Al Habsi.
A quiet opening ten minutes in the second-half was nearly ended with a Latics goal as Crainey fired across the six-yard box with the on-rushing Maynard inches away from prodding home.
Al Habsi had to be sharp minutes later with Konchesky firing a stinging shot at the Omani international stopper from 25 yards.
Schmeichel had denied Latics on three occasions in the first-half and he continued to do so until Kiernan nodded Latics in front just after the hour mark. Initially the Dane made a fine save to tip McArthur’s curler over the bar before Kiernan bagged his first career goal heading Gomez’s corner in at the front post.
Substitute James McClean nearly doubled Latics’ advantage five minutes later as he latched onto McArthur’s pass and shot past Schmeichel only for a fine goal-line clearance from Wes Morgan.
The Foxes piled bodies forward in search of an equaliser and Latics looked to break on the counter as McArthur fired into McClean’s path only for another solid block from Morgan denying the Republic of Ireland international.
Leicester substitute Riyad Mahrez forced a good low save from Al Habsi as the Championship leaders pushed for an equaliser in the final 20 minutes.
Just a minute later and the French winger had a golden chance to equalise for the Foxes, though he blazed over when well-placed and in space inside the Latics penalty area.
Gomez, who was excellent throughout, forced another save from Schmeichel as he broke from midfield and fired low to the Dane’s right.
Despite their advantage, Latics continued to see more of the ball and Boyce had a good chance to make it 3-1 in the 84th minute as Collison’s shot deflected into the skipper’s path at the back post, though he couldn’t angle to ball down and fired wide.
The final five minutes saw the Foxes apply the pressure that has seen them be so successful over the course of this campaign and back-to-back free-kicks saw Pearson’s side level as Hammond headed Konchesky’s set piece beyond Al Habsi.
Marc-Antoine Fortune went close to winning it late on for Latics, though the French striker was denied by another fine low save from Schmeichel after rolling his defender inside the area.