Wigan Athletic 0-0 Portsmouth
Wigan missed a golden opportunity to ease their relegation worries as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Portsmouth at the DW Stadium.
Pompey’s Jamie Ashdown was by far the busier goalkeeper but his display was certainly not in the brilliant category as the Latics squandered a number of chances.
And although the draw lifted Wigan up a place to 16th they are only five points above the bottom three with the visit of Arsenal to come at the weekend.
It said a great deal about this match that Pompey boss Avram Grant’s team selection was about the most interesting topic of conversation before, during and after the game.
Having beaten Tottenham in their FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, Grant made eight changes – including handing debuts to 20-year-olds Joel Ward and midfielder Matt Ritchie – and named just four substitutes, two of whom were teenagers Lenny Sowah and Marlon Pack.
But the glaring pre-match statistic for Wigan, apart from the one which highlighted only three Premier League victories since the turn of the year, was that they had failed to score more than once in their last 13 matches.
Their first-half performance encapsulated that form perfectly as, after allowing their visitors a couple of openings, they proceeded to squander several chances.
Paul Scharner headed Charles N’Zogbia’s free-kick wide under pressure from Ricardo Rocha, one of only three survivors from Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final, and James McCarthy forced Ashdown into a save with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Both Colombia striker Hugo Rodallega, still wearing gloves in mid-April, and Scharner failed to connect with N’Zogbia’s cross into the six-yard area while Mohamed Diame’s driving run to the byline resulted in Jason Scotland shooting straight at Ashdown from four yards.
The Pompey goalkeeper then did just enough to keep out Scotland’s drive from the edge of the penalty area after former Wigan midfielder Michael Brown’s backpass had played in the Trinidad and Tobago international.
When Wigan did finally get the ball in the net Scharner was flagged offside from N’Zogbia’s deflected shot.
The Austrian and Rodallega both then missed the target with half-decent opportunities in added time.
Portsmouth’s two chances in the first half came early on for Ritchie, who diverted Tommy Smith’s pass wide from a good position and then failed to hit the target at the far post from Anthony Vanden Borre’s hanging cross.
Sowah came on for only his second Pompey appearance after making his debut earlier this month, as Rocha went off and Ward moved into the centre of defence at the start of the second half.
Although it did little to shore up things at the back, Wigan were so adept at missing chances it hardly mattered.
Ten minutes after the restart Scharner side-footed over from Maynor Figueroa’s cut-back, which proved to be his last contribution.
Striker Marcelo Moreno replaced him and with the cheers of home fans still echoing in his ears the Austrian disappeared straight down the tunnel.
Another chance went begging when Scotland’s glancing header from N’Zogbia’s cross flashed across the face of goal before Ashdown raced off his line to block a Moreno shot, producing his best save of the night with nine minutes remaining when he tipped McCarthy’s drive around his right-hand post.
The hosts continued to push for a much-needed winner but Moreno shot wastefully wide with N’Zogbia well placed before Rodallega fired over late on.
Wigan could yet be left to rue this missed opportunity as, after Arsenal, their other remaining fixtures are against fellow relegation strugglers West Ham and Hull before they head to Chelsea on the final day of the season.