Latics and Pompey share spoils

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.