REPORT: WOLVES 2 WIGAN ATHLETIC 2A pulsating contest ended all square as both teams had chances to win, both will have been disappointed to lose but both eventually came off the field with something to show for all the hard work.
Latics cancelled out Dave Edwards’ header to lead at half-time through goals by James Perch and Marc-Antoine Fortune and after Bakary Sako had levelled midway through the second half, the game swung from end to end in a real thriller, both teams trying to score right up to the final seconds of injury time.
For Uwe Rosler’s men, ultimately, it was further encouraging signs that there is a real battling spirit inside his team, who fought fire with fire and put in a really spirited display against a Wolves side who were desperate not to lose for the second time in a week in front of their own supporters after being such a force at home.
Rosler made three changes before the game, Emmerson Boyce missed out after limping off at half-time in Tuesday’s draw against Nottingham Forest, his deputy then, Leon Barnett, keeping his place. Shaun Maloney came in Callum McManaman, while Fortune replaced Andy Delort, both of whom dropped to the bench.
With the team having to wear white shorts to avoid a clash with Wolves’ black colour, Latics begun quickly, Maloney striking a post within the first minute but the referee had spotted an infringement and called play back.
Latics had to work really hard to prevent the home side gaining an early momentum, at the same time as using Fortune as an outlet to hold up play and look to build up attacks.
It did work pretty well Wolves’ real threat was coming down their left side. Matt Doherty shot inside the box and a Scott Golbourne cross fizzed in front of Scott Carson, who also had to be sharp to prevent a Bakary Sako cross from causing any damage. Carson then had to come out sharply to prevent Nouha Dicko from reaching a long diagonal pass.
Latics were frustrated by the fact the referee twice pulled back play rather than give an advantage when the counter was on and Wolves finally broke through after half an hour when Dave Richards headed past Carson from inside the box from Rajiv van La Parra’s cross from the right hand side. A real blow.
But Latics immediately hit back with their real first significant effort on goal. Fortune was fouled on the goal line, just outside the box. Maloney fired in a perfect delivery and James Perch, skipper for the day, rose at the far post to head home emphatically. Fantastic header.
Maloney tried an audacious free-kick from 35 yards minutes later, which went a yard wide, while Perch was back in familiar territory to head a dangerous cross from the right out for a corner as Wolves counter-attacked.
But it was Latics who finished the half stronger, Fortune proving a handful for the Wolves defence to control.He won a croner, taken by Maloney. Ivan Ramis reached it but there was not enough power in his looping header to trouble Carl Ikeme in the Wolves net.
But then Fortune completed the first half comeback in injury time. Tenacious work from James McClean in the centre-circle midfield led to his finding Maloney 40 yards out. He turned sharply, found Andrew Taylor on the left. One touch and the cross got trapped under Richard Stearman’s feet on the penalty spot. The Frenchman pounced on the loose ball and rifled it into the top corner from an angle to set the Latics fans celebrating in the Molineux sunshine.
Latics had a chance to extend their leas with barely a minute gone in the second half. Maloney’s floated free-kick from near the centre circle causing immense problems in the box, Wolves half cleared but McClean reached a second cross but the header went over.
Latics looked in control but Sako did hit the side netting as Wolves broke down the left. Latics threatened again when Fortune was brought down by Sako as he galloped into the Wolves half, Perch flicking on Huw’s free-kick but it went a yard wide. Fortune then pounced on a loose backpass to set up McClean but his effort was blocked on the edge of the box.
William Kvist was replaced by Adam Forshaw just before the hour mark as you felt the game entered into a crucial period, play swinging from end to end.
Dicko wriggled free of Ramis and managed to force a save from Carson. Then Fortune again broke, he found Huws who set up McClean and his goal bound effort from inside the area was deflected for a corner by Doherty. Then at the other end, Dicko crossed low and Taylor had to clear in front of his goal.
Wolves got the breakthrough from the resultant corner, but it had a huge slice of fortune attached to it as James Henry completely missed the ball and Sako fired a curling drive beyond Carson.
But still Latics came back, Maloney was bundled over in the box as he turned Stearman but the referee was not interested. Then came the change, with Andy Delort replacing Fortune, who had worked tirelessly.
What could he do in the final 20 minutes?
Wolves continued to threaten as Carson saved from Henry after a brilliant block from Ramis at the feet of Stearman. The atmosphere was rising as both teams looked capable of snatching a winner. A dangerous free-kick at one end was caught by Carson while Latics won a free-kick of their own 25 yards out, slightly to the left. A neat routine led to Maloney firing, but it was over.
Callum McManaman was the final throw of the dice as he replaced McClean for the final few minutes. Delort broke clear was flagged offside before Doherty’s header came back off the cross bar and a real thriller ended all square.