Brilliant Latics bounce back

Posted by Ned Brown

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesFranco Di Santo, right, celebrates his equalizer in the second half with James McArthur, left, during Wigan's 2-2 draw at Stoke.

Two top quality strikes capped a stylish second half comeback after a freak goal and isolated breakaway had given Stoke City a 2-0 lead.

- Whittaker: Complete capitulation at the Britannia
- Latics climb out of drop zone


Given the scarcity of defenders and strikers at his disposal, Roberto Martinez fielded a midfield-heavy starting XI reminiscent of the Spanish national team in makeup. If the first half was sloppy and disjointed from both sides, the second was all Wigan, with the type of calm possession football that would have done Spain themselves proud.

The first goal was perhaps the best piece of football in Wigan's season thus far: Franco Di Santo cushioning a driven ball to Roger Espinoza, whose perfectly weighted one-time pass was elegantly finished by the on-rushing James McArthur. One touch football at its finest.

It rightly gave Wigan the kind of confidence we haven't seen since that run of form last season. It was the same trio that created the equaliser -- Espinoza floating the ball towards McArthur, who nodded it back for an emphatic Di Santo finish.

McArthur, Shaun Maloney and Di Santo would go close as Latics went in search of victory, but it wasn't to be. The point, however, is a good one and the second half performance has us dreaming again.

The Good:
Midfielders in the Martinez era have been goal shy. Although James McCarthy had a conservative match, it was fantastic to see both Espinoza and McArthur take some risks and get into scoring positions. The goals came when they drove forward.

Espinoza had a wobbly first half, but an excellent second one. He certainly looks a useful signing. He is positive with his passing, energetic, and willing to try something different.

Roman Golobart had a sound match, defensively speaking. With Emmerson Boyce hobbling off with a hamstring injury, it was a huge boost to witness the young Spaniard make a satisfactory Premier League debut.

The Bad:
Both goals conceded were arguably errors that need to be wiped out. While the first had an element of bad luck to it with Jean Beausejour's clearance bouncing off the back of McCarthy's head, a more assertive clearance would have prevented the goal.

Ali Al-Habsi's new habit of saving the ball into the path of an on-rushing striker has cost Wigan several goals this season. It was a difficult save to make on a wet pitch, but a confident Al-Habsi would have steered it away from goal.

Conclusions:

While an opportunity to take three points was lost, any draw at the Britannia is a valuable one. The football Wigan played in the second half -- and the quality goals they scored -- should give them the confidence boost needed to prevail over Southampton in Saturday's crucial match.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 5 -- Just isn't inspiring confidence. Didn't have much to do, but spilled the second goal into Peter Crouch's path.

Roman Golobart: 6 -- Some nervous passing in the first half, but got better and made one vital tackle in the second half. His distribution improved as he grew in confidence.

Gary Caldwell: 7 -- Did very well to cope with the physical and aerial threat of the Stoke attackers. His passing was excellent.

Maynor Figueroa: 7 -- Average first half but classy in second. Drives the team forward when he attacks.

Emmerson Boyce: 5 -- Went off with a hamstring injury, which might explain why he was being beaten so easily by Matthew Etherington in the first half.

Jean Beausejour: 6.5 -- Mixed bag. His best game for some time; he delivered two or three lovely crosses and played some good football but still not confident. Poor clearance in the build-up to the first goal, however.

James McArthur: 8 -- One of the few to put in a good full 90 minutes. Scored a cracker, set up the equaliser, and almost struck a winner.

James McCarthy: 6 -- Steady but wish he would take the match by the scruff of its neck. He could dominate.

Roger Espinoza: 7.5 -- Some dodgy passing early on, but was outstanding in the second half. Influential.

Shaun Maloney: 7 -- A constant menace but no end product today. He did supply a gorgeous, Beckham-esque cross for Di Santo towards the end that deserved to end up in the back of the net.

Franco Di Santo: 7 -- Took his goal very well and almost got a second, but drifted out wide often away from the box. Should take on defenders more frequently. Needs to be more arrogant, as Martinez would say.

Subs:

Ronnie Stam: 6.5 -- One fantastic cross, otherwise held on to the ball well and didn't let the team down defensively.

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