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Fulham fight back for another away point

last updated Monday 09th November 2009, 4:14 PM

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Rory Smith at Daily Telegraph

Wigan Athletic 1 Fulham 1

On the day when Stamford Bridge staged a main event which pitched two genuine giants into battle and the KC Stadium provided Phil Brown, punch-drunk, with a scrap for his survival, Wigan Athletic against Fulham would be lucky to feature on the undercard. Even two featherweights, though, know how to put on a show.

After a few minor teething troubles - Wigan to a new manager, Fulham to a new status - both Roberto Martinez and Roy Hodgson have found themselves safely ensconced in mid-table, a protective cocoon they are neither good enough nor bad enough to escape from in the near future. They are away from the spotlight, they are away from the pressure, and they are thriving.

The scoreline, Clint Dempsey's penalty cancelling out Emmerson Boyce's scrambled opener, hardly hints at 90 minutes of blows traded with reckless abandon. It may have been as close to meaningless as a Premier League match can be, but both sides went at it like two fighters told their opponent's punches will not hurt.

Chances came cheaply, almost by the dozen, particularly once Erik Nevland guided Bobby Zamora's chip, agonisingly, onto the inside of Chris Kirkland's post. Such a chance opened the floodgates. The hosts took the lead two minutes later, Paul Scharner nodding Erik Edman's deep cross down to Emmerson Boyce to bundle home. The celebrations had not died down when Charles N'Zogbia, in sparkling form, cut inside and curled a left-footed shot onto Mark Schwarzer's fingertips and then, agonisingly, the bar.

Fulham fought back, though. Nevland had already glanced a header over and Damien Duff's control betrayed him as he looked to take advantage of a Titus Bramble moment - the defender, for reasons known only to himself, teeing him up perfectly on the edge of the Wigan box - when Bramble felled Dempsey in the box and the American stepped up to convert the incontrovertible spot-kick.

That may have been it for goals, but it was not for want of trying.

Martinez's side, inspired by the sparkling trio of N'Zogbia, Hugo Rodallega and, in particular, Mohamed Diame, drew Schwarzer into a string of fine saves, the Australian denying Scharner twice, spoiling a sparking N'Zogbia run and, most impressively of all, stopping Hendry Thomas's bullet header at point-blank range.

Kirkland, at the opposite end, had little chance to enjoy his counterpart's display. He parried one fierce Dempsey free kick straight to Jonathan Greening and did well to spring back up to deny the former West Bromwich midfielder, while only Duff's touch - again - and a last-ditch tackle from Diame prevented the Irishman handing Fulham a win. Such an outcome would have been unfair. These two could not even be separated on points.
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