Mixed emotions for Blackwell

Roberto Martinez has told his players to keep performing well to

stay in the Wigan Athletic side and has praised Ali Al Habsi for

strengthening his case with a fine display for Oman.

Al Habsi was left on the bench for Wigan’s win over Newcastle

United as Martinez kept faith with the side that beat Everton in

the FA Cup, meaning another start for Spanish youngster Joel.

But Al Habsi impressed Martinez with the way he played for Oman

in a 2-2 draw against Australia in midweek, putting him in

contention for a recall against Norwich City on Saturday.

“Ali was fantastic against Australia,” Martinez said. “He made

six incredible saves from Tim Cahill alone.

“I think that was the Australian tactic, looking for Cahill in

the box. But Ali stood up to him well.”

Martinez admits he will have to rely on his whole squad for the

rest of the season as Wigan battle for Premier League survival and

FA Cup glory.

“Every position is for grabs,” he stated. “Remember we have at

least 10 games in the next seven weeks, and every player is going

to be needed.

“Obviously because of the FA Cup run, all of a sudden we have

more players fighting for places in the team.

“I’m not going to make the decision on who plays – it will be

football that makes the decision.

“That’s why I feel the excitement around the place is so

different, because everyone knows they absolutely have to be at

their best. And at this stage of the season, the rewards are


“Over the next seven weeks there will be moments that will be

unique in a player’s career.”

Martinez may be forced into at least one change this weekend,

with Antolin Alcaraz (groin) joining Callum McManaman (ankle) on

the injured list.

“It’s complicated with Antolin, because he has developed fatigue

related to his injury,” Martinez added.

“We perhaps should have given him more time.”

Teenage forward Jed Wallace bagged his third goal in three

matches after three minutes to put Pompey ahead but Keith Keane’s

stunning volley after 77 minutes levelled for the Lilywhites.

Portsmouth rode their luck at times – Jack King headed against

the bar and Joe Garner hit a post before the hosts eventually

equalised – and while North End have lost just once in eight games,

they have drawn four of those.

Grayson said: “It was a game where we created some good chances

but we’ve dropped two points. We’ve hit the bar and the post.

“We’re disappointed with the goal we conceded but full credit to

the players, they stuck to it.

“We had enough chances to win the game and that’s disappointing

but if you don’t win it you make sure you keep fighting and

scrapping to make sure you get something out of it.

“It was a great goal. I thought he did well when he went into

midfield and Keith has been very good for us since I’ve been


“It needed to be something like that goal as their keeper had

made some good saves. Once we got the goal it looked like we were

going to kick on and get that winner, but it wasn’t to be.

“They kept plugging away which is the good thing and they didn’t

let the early goal affect them and they carried out the

instructions I wanted them to do.”

Teenage forward Jed Wallace bagged his third goal in three

matches after three minutes to put Pompey ahead but Keith Keane’s

stunning volley after 77 minutes levelled for Preston.

Portsmouth rode their luck at times – Jack King headed against

the bar and Joe Garner hit a post before North End eventually

equalised – but they have now lost just once in seven matches.

They remain in the relegation zone, however, but Whittingham is

adamant his weary troops will battle to the end against Tranmere on

Easter Monday.

“It’s a point gained really, considering the performance. I

think on the other side of things it shows how far this group of

players has come,” said Whittingham.

“I thought we battled against everything Preston threw against

us and it took a good goal to beat our goalkeeper.

“I think everybody could see we weren’t playing at our best but

I think we were dogged and we had a couple of strokes of luck where

they hit the bar and the post.

“The goal gave us something to keep hold of but we didn’t play

at our best like our fans want to see. It was a dogged performance

and they dug in.

“Before the game we didn’t think they were tired. We are where

we are in terms of a small squad but the players that have come in

have put in a good shift and put in some good work for the


The Shrews opener was a 30-yard free-kick by Matt Richards which

completely deceived Gillespie as it dropped over his head and into

the back of the net.

The keeper, who was returning after a one-match ban, then failed

to gather a ball at his near post which allowed Yado Mambo to

squeeze an effort in.

“He will be playing at Sheffield United on Monday,” said Abbott,

who saw Lee Miller score two penalties for his side to earn a 2-2


“He will be a really good keeper. He has made two errors, it’s

as simple as that, but he made two superb saves after that. He is a

baby in football terms.

“There’s a lot of tension around and we were good, bad and

indifferent. The players are giving everything they have got and

fighting for the fans.

“We have a lot of kids and they are learning all the time.”

It was looking as though the Alex were heading for victory when

substitute Brad Inman fired them in front clinically with just

eight minutes left, but in the final of four minutes of added time

Bury skipper Steven Schumacher was felled by Mark Ellis and Andy

Bishop beat Steve Phillips from 12 yards to earn a much-needed


It was just reward for a relegation-threatened Bury side who

probably should have scored more than two goals.

Blackwell said: “It maybe feels like we should be happy to have

secured a point with such a late goal, but once again chances have

gone begging and that’s so frustrating.

“We’ve done it again. Time and again we’re getting in their box

but the ball just isn’t always falling for us. I can’t fault the

lads though for all that.

“We’re struggling down at the bottom but they’re giving me


“They’re as desperate as anyone here to get out of this mess,

even a bit frantic, and I suppose we have got something out of the


“It’s the same old press conference, though. We talking about

the could’ve the should’ve and probably the would’ve. We won’t give

it up, though.

“We’ll keep plugging away and if we keep putting in effort like

this, then who knows what might happen to us at the end of the