David Hopps at The Guardian
Wigan 1 Fulham 1
Wigan's manager, Roberto Martínez, wears stylish pointy tan shoes on the touchline and his side strive for all good things continental. They will soon be serving croissants and expresso in the refreshment outlets rather than meat pies. But if the style is undeniable, the goals are lacking; six in as many games at home will not keep the supporters drooling.
Wigan, in front of barely 16,000, managed one more on this occasion, leading as early as the 14th minute when Emmerson Boyce knocked in Paul Scharner's far post header but were unable to capitalise further against a Fulham side who were as well-organised as ever and whose attacking ambitions were limited after the tribulations of a Europa Cup tie against Roma in midweek.
As these sides had managed 22 goals in 21 games between them, that might have been that but Fulham levelled thanks to Clint Dempsey's penalty six minutes before half-time. Roy Hodgson, their manager, was happy enough, even if his grievance about Fulham's Europa Cup campaign remains as strong as ever.
"I would agree with David Moyes at the moment in questioning the value of the Europa Cup but only because of the way we have been treated. I don't think we have been allowed to play on a level playing field," said Hodgson, who was in a more positive frame of mind about signing a new contract to stay at Craven Cottage. "The club have been keen to organise a contract for me to stay longer and I am not averse to the idea," said the 62-year-old. "I hope something will be sorted out in the near future, because they are keen to get something done."
Judging by the walk to the ground past a wrecked phone box and bus shelter, Wigan had become a playing field for discontented minds on Mischief Night. What was needed was a more innocent form of mischief to kick-start the game, and there was plenty of it. Erik Nevland struck a post for Fulham before Wigan went ahead; Erik Edman crossed deep from the left, Scharner won the header at the far post and Boyce fired home with ease.
Fulham's most promising moment in the first 35 minutes was a backheel past his own post by Wigan's captain, Mario Melchiot, but they equalised after Damien Duff's free-kick from the right was allowed to fall at the feet of Dempsey, whose faffing potential seemed limitless before Titus Bramble fouled him from behind; Dempsey beat Chris Kirkland from the spot comfortably enough.
Fulham might have stolen the lead nine minutes into the second half when Dempsey, their liveliest attacking threat, was allowed two goes at a free-kick. His first attempt struck the wall, which had presumably encroached; his repeat was saved uncomfortably by Kirkland, who atoned by smothering Jonathan Greening's follow-up.
Thereafter, it was all Wigan, who created a succession of opportunities that deserved to bring victory. Mark Schwarzer saved two headers from corners, first from Bramble and later from Scharner, and also kept out Boyce's low shotafter his 40-yard run had promised to bring a thrilling finish to slick interplay from Melchiot and Scharner.
Wigan also had half-hearted appeals for a penalty after Hugo Rodallega's shot struck Chris Baird on the edge of the area but they were given short shrift by the referee, Phil Dowd, a late change for Mark Clattenburg
"What you worry about is not a lack of goals but a lack of chances,'' said Martínez. "Fulham are one of the best defensive set-ups in the Premier League and Schwarzer's display would have encouraged any youngster to become a goalkeeper."