Andrew Johnson's second-half strike secured a share of the points for Fulham at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
Fulham got the game underway at the DW Stadium, with Mark Hughes keeping faith with the same starting eleven that put six past Peterborough in the FA Cup last weekend.
Hughes’ hand was strengthened with the return of Mousa Dembele and Andrew Johnson from injury. Both players featured on Fulham’s bench alongside the Club’s most recent signing, Steve Sidwell.
The pace of the game early on was impressive, with both teams showing their attacking intent. Chris Baird fired in the first serious effort on goal, a 30 yard strike from the left flank. Seconds later Rodallega went even closer for the home side, volleying just wide of Stockdale’s post from 15 yards.
During the opening exchanges Fulham looked by far the most threatening outfit, with their ability to counter attack at pace married with a competitive spirit that saw Hughes’ players win the majority of their fifty-fifty challenges.
Wigan’s most potent force was N’Zogbia down the left flank. Returning from suspension the winger’s skill and creativity resulted in a number of threatening crosses during the first 15 minutes.
Fulham almost created two opportunities in the space of a minute as the 20 minute mark approached. First Damien Duff found space down the right flank to cut inside Figueroa before delivering a low rasping shot to Al Habsi’s near post after 18 minutes. Moments later Dempsey highlighted his skill and inventiveness with a fine turn and dribble that almost set Simon Davies up in the area.
Hughes’ defence were taking no prisoners, with Brede Hangeland leading the way with several full-blooded challenges in the first-half. John Pantsil found his name in the book after 25 minutes following an over exuberant tackle.
Before the half hour mark Wigan went within an inch of scoring the opening goal of the game. Again, the chance was created from out wide, this time on the right flank, and a fine delivery was headed against the base of the post by Rodallega. It was a lucky escape for Fulham who weathered a spell of pressure as the game heated up.
After 31 minutes Damien Duff beat Wigan’s offside trap, latching onto a through ball from Dempsey for a one-on-one with Al Habsi. The keeper reduced the angle and Duff’s effort rebounded off the keeper. Fulham had torn through Wigan’s defence but failed to capitalise on a fine opportunity.
Fulham were really gaining ground down Wigan’s left flank and two dangerous crosses just lacked a finishing touch in front of goal during the final stages of the first-half. It was end-to-end action at the DW Stadium and Damien Duff looked to test Al Habsi with a 30-yard strike that blazed over the bar five minutes before the break.
During the two minutes of added time Alcaraz joined Pantsil in the book for a late challenge on Dempsey. The match remained level at the break and finely balanced - the score-line did not reflect what was a highly entertaining first 45 minutes.
Mark Hughes and Roberto Martinez retained the same line-ups for the second-half, which failed to ignite in the same vein as the match had commenced. Both sides struggled to find their rhythm or retain possession for sustained periods at the start of the second period.
After an uneventful start to the second-half, Rodallega handed Wigan the lead after 57 minutes. The striker chased a long ball up field and after muscling his way past Hughes lobbed the ball over Stockdale into the back of the net. After posing no serious threat Wigan had taken the lead.
Mark Hughes made an immediate change, replacing Diomansy Kamara with Mousa Dembele in attack. Fulham attacked straight from the re-start, applying pressure from the flanks and Dembele certainly offered some added guile on the final third. His ability to pick the ball up in front of Wigan's defence and find the space and time to pick out a threatening pass proved decisive.
Just past the hour mark a penalty appeal by Fulham was dismissed by Referee Anthony Taylor after Dempsey appeared to be pushed in the area. The US striker forced Al Habsi into a fine save after 65 minutes when he fired Davies’ cross towards goal.
Fulham earned a slice of luck after 68 minutes when Rodallega failed to put the ball in the back of an empty net from close range. It was against the run of play as Fulham were virtually camped in Wigan’s half after the home side had taken the lead
As the final ten minutes approached Fulham had a further two penalty appeals turned down. To add salt to the wound, Clint Dempsey fired the ball into the back of the net from close range before his strike was overruled for an alleged handball.
Dempsey attempted the spectacular on 84 minutes, meeting Duff’s corner with an overhead kick at the far post. Fulham pressed and pressed and eventually got the goal they deserved through Andrew Johnson. The striker raced clear down the right flank before firing a fierce drive towards goal. Al Habsi managed to get a hand to the ball but the power of the strike sent it into the back of the net.
Johnson celebrated with the Fulham faithful behind the goal before Hughes’ men went in search of a winner. A point was the least Fulham deserved on Saturday. After four minutes injury time the game finished 1-1. Fulham arguably deserved all three points after another impressive away performance against Wigan at the DW Stadium and should be brimming with confidence when the team take on Stoke at the Cottage next weekend.