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Fulham 2-2 Wigan Cham 42 1415 Daily Mail

last updated Monday 13th April 2015, 10:45 PM
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Jack Gaughan at Daily Mail

Fulham (2) 2-2 (1) Wigan

James McClean's reaction said it all. As Scott Carson's long, hopeful punt downfield floated harmlessly out of play, the talented winger spun in disgust, shook his head and threw open his arms. Wigan are better than this, and they know it.

They were 2-1 down at that point, two moments of genius from Ross McCormack and Matt Smith the difference. They rallied to come away from Fulham with a point - it was a night in which new manager Gary Caldwell certainly saw enough to build on - but all at the club know their stay in the Championship is unlikely to be extended beyond May.

It is an infuriating situation, the damage inflicted by an ultimately doomed appointment of Malky Mackay incurable this season.

Caldwell must hope he has the character to build next year if they do fail to perform the improbable and remain in this division. Seven points is now the difference, Wigan having played at least a game more than their rivals with just four games to play.

Their band of supporters in one corner of Craven Cottage recognise this is not the fault of Caldwell and are actually excited about what the future may hold. No Malky, no problem.

But as McClean's annoyance indicates, they are all too aware that this impending relegation should not have been allowed to happen. The frustration is that their squad is more than capable of challenging under the right guidance, but probably won't have the opportunity to do so.

Wigan showed guts and dug in for Caldwell, whose more patient style in possession was referenced by the Latics' official Twitter account midway through this. It felt like a sly dig to his predecessor.

And to come from behind twice shows qualities they just did not possess under Mackay.

Caldwell, a rugged central defender, will be unhappy with the ease with which McCormack opened the scoring after just four minutes; Harry Maguire's header was a poor one, straight into the path of Sean Kavanagh, who fed the Scot and he was afforded the time to pick a spot and curl beyond Scott Carson.

In a game lacking genuine chances, there were then two moments of real class.

Firstly Jermaine Pennant levelled for Wigan, bending a wicked 25-yard free-kick away from the despairing Marcus Bettinelli. He ran the full length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the travelling hundreds.

But anything the winger could do, lanky Smith would match. Fulham's target man - again in too much space - looked up from the same distance and marvellously clipped over Carson to net just his third goal for the club since a summer move from Leeds.

Those flashes from the front two rather masked what was a disjointed display by the Cottagers, still smarting from their derby humiliation against Brentford last week. Fans were furious at Kit Symons' lack of tactical imagination, further compounded when Jason Pearce gambled at the back post to equalise for the visitors in the 69th minute.

Smith had been taken off six minutes previously to a chorus of boos and chants of 'you don't know what you're doing' rained down on Symons. The same when McCormack was hooked for defender Kostas Stafylidis. Much like against Brentford, Fulham's paying customers did not shirk away from telling him exactly what they thought.

These are testing times for Symons, whose relationship with the fans is at its lowest ebb since he took over earlier this season. How he must've prayed Scott Parker didn't fluff his lines in stoppage time.

Compare that to Wigan who, even though they will almost definitely join Blackpool in League One, are pulling in the same direction. Their new chairman David Sharpe, grandson of Dave Whelan, spoke of a long-term vision on appointing Caldwell on Tuesday, and that is something which has galvanised the place.

Had Pennant's late header not been superbly blocked by Dan Burn, the talk might have been of an unlikeliest of survival miracles.

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