A superb second-half display saw Wigan grab a crucial point in their fight against relegation from the Premier League after fighting back from two goals down in a 2-2 draw at the Britannia Stadium.
Ryan Shawcross volleyed the home side ahead when Charlie Adam’s free-kick dropped kindly into his path via the head of James McArthur and Stoke looked well on course for victory when Peter Crouch pounced to put the hosts two goals up early in the second half.
But McArthur reduced the deficit with a superbly taken goal with the outside of his right foot before Franco Di Santo pulled Wigan level with a fine volley. Wigan went on to dominate for long periods and could easily have snatched victory but the point takes them out of the bottom three on goal difference after Aston Villa lost to Newcastle United.
The result means that Stoke have failed to win a game in six Premier League matches and manager Tony Pulis will be red-faced after his team let a two-goal lead slip on his 450th game in charge.
The game was slow to the boil after a nasty clash of heads between Robert Huth and Di Santo just two minutes in halted play for four minutes. Huth looked to come off worse and was down for a considerable length of time before receiving the ‘Terry Butcher’ head bandage treatment.
And just as play resumed the heavens above the Britannia Stadium opened, slickening the surface and making passing play difficult.
With both teams opting for a 3-5-2 formation, the midfields cancelled one another out and it was not until just before the 20 minute mark that Adam produced the first real shot in anger, the Scot fizzing a low drilled effort just wide of Ali Al Habsi’s post.
Five minutes later and Stoke were ahead and the goal had an element of fortune about it. A needless foul from Roger Espinoza on Whelan led to a Stoke free-kick and Adam’s floated cross was headed straight into McArthur from Jean Beausejour. The ball dropped kindly for Shawcross who gratefully volleyed home his first goal for almost a year.
Despite marginally edging the possession, Wigan almost found themselves two behind when Adam feigned to cross before nearly catching Al Habsi out with a shot from the edge of the box that dipped just over the keeper’s top corner.
The visitors' chances were limited to sporadic raids, mainly from the lively work of Beausejour down the left flank. McCarthy volleyed wide from one such run and cross and Asmir Begovic was happy to see no Wigan player on hand to tap into the net after he spilled another just before the break.
If the first half was slow to the boil, the start of the second was frantic. Wigan barely had time to settle before they found themselves two behind. Adam, their driving force in midfield, stormed forward from the half way line after Espinoza conceded possession and Al Habsi could only palm his drive into the path of a waiting Crouch.
With Stoke’s renowned defensive record when in front at home, it looked done and dusted. Wigan needed an immediate response and they got it. Espinoza made immediate amends for losing possession for the Stoke goal by finding McArthur through the middle with a glorious pass and the striker did the rest with a sublime finish past Begovic with the outside of his right boot.
It was the impetus the visitors needed and they had the ball in the net five minutes later as Shaun Maloney neatly rounded Begovic to slide the ball home only to see the flag raised. Minutes later the ball was in the net again and this time legally.
More great work from Espinoza down the left flank saw his cross headed back across goal by a leaping McArthur and Di Santo was on hand to slam the volley home. The goal visibly seemed to deflate the home side and Wigan grew in stature, dominating the midfield for the remainder of the match.
Begovic had to beat away McArthur’s shot from Di Santo’s lay off and another shot from Maloney stung the keeper’s fingers. Pulis rang the changes, bringing on Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones and it nearly paid off.
Jerome beat Gary Caldwell before shooting wide of Al Habsi’s post when he ought to have done better before crossing to Crouch at the far post only for Maynor Figueroa to do just enough to put off the striker.
But Wigan continued to press for the winner and nearly had it in the final minute of the match, Di Santo inches wide from finding the net at full stretch from Maloney’s excellent cross.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Roger Espinoza - Wigan: A constant menace down the left with his pace and trickery, especially in the second half. Recovered well from a booking to play a big part in both goals for Wigan.
STOKE: Begovic 6; Cameron 7, Shawcross 7, Huth 6; Whitehead 6, Whelan 6, Nzonzi 6, Adam 7, Etherington; Walters 6, Crouch 6. Subs: K. Jones 6, Wilkinson 6, Jerome 6.
WIGAN: Al Habsi 6; McCarthy 7, Caldwell 6, Di Santo 6, Maloney 7, McArthur 7, Boyce 6, Golobart 6, Espinoza 8, Beausejour 7, Figueroa 6. Subs: Stam 6, McManaman 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Franco Di Santo
- Charlie Adam