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Posted on 15 April 2007  - 12:00

The lads fought back on three occasions as a thriller against Wigan at the JJB Stadium ended in a 3-3 draw on Sunday afternoon.

The lads fought back on three occasions as a thriller against Wigan at the JJB Stadium ended in a 3-3 draw on Sunday afternoon.

We trailed three times - the first with under a minute on the clock - but goals from Dimitar Berbatov and a double from Robbie Keane secured a point.

Martin Jol made two changes to the side that made a gallant exit from the UEFA Cup on Thursday, with the rested Ledley King being replaced in central defence by Ricardo Rocha and Phil Ifil being drafted in at left back - allowing Teemu Tainio to take over from Steed Malbranque on the left of midfield.

In front of another fine following who made the trip north - especially given that this was our fifth game in 15 days - the game got underway on a fine April afternoon in the north west.

It wasn't such a fine beginning to the afternoon for us as, with less than a minute on the clock, the curse of the set piece struck again. A free-kick from Denny Landzaat was not cleared despite several attempts and eventually Emile Heskey nodded past Paul Robinson.

The response was swift and decisive. Three and a half minutes in Robbie Keane dragged the ball in from the right and supplied Berbatov, who purposefully strode past two markers before carefully placing past John Filan to level the scores.

The Berbatov-Keane axis was looking promising - the captain providing more the supply line - while the Bulgarian should perhaps have done better when he found himself right in the flight path of a Jermaine Jenas corner.

Wigan's offside trap was well and truly sprung on 20 minutes by the front combination but, with Jenas waiting, Berbatov picked out the run of Keane for his cutback. Unfortunately, Keane did not make the required clean connection and Landzaat was able to blocked his slightly scuffed shot.

The home side then conjured up a threat of their own when Heskey excellently picked out the advancing Paul Scharner who, in turn, slotted through to Lee McCulloch and it took a brave lunge from Michael Dawson to knock the Scot out of his stride.

Just before the half hour mark the advantage was seized by Wigan again when a headed clearance from Dawson to the right hand corner of the penalty area was returned with interest by Leighton Baines - the little full-back striking a lofted volley beyond the reach of Robinson and into the top corner.

Dawson could have levelled moments later but just failed to make contact with a Jenas corner. We did not have too long to wait though as the speed on Jenas caught Wigan cold on the counter attack.

The midfielder sped down the left before being tracked by the retreating Baines, but the England under-21 man then lost control and JJ was back on the run and eventually felled by Filan inside the area. Keane was cool as you like from the spot and slotted to Filan's left with 35 minutes gone.

There was another clear and present danger just before the break when a Ryan Taylor cross from the right was met full on by the head of Scharner, bringing a fine save out of Robinson, with Kevin Kilbane heading the rebound over the bar.

Robbo was back in the thick of the action early in the second half with a smart save to deny Landzaat, but perhaps not surprisingly both managers probably sought to congest some of the open spaces the midfielders were able to operate in during the first half and the game was not quite as free-flowing as before.

Scharner was unlucky though with a drive that clipped the top of the bar ten minutes after the interval. As a result of a Emmerson Boyce cross the Austrian blasted across the face of goal after Kilbane missed with his head.

He certainly didn't do that on the hour from a Taylor corner, the Irishman stole in unmarked to power a header past Robinson to once again secure the lead. Filan then did well to fend off a Jenas free-kick that was edging dangerously close to his top corner.

Steed Malbranque was introduced in place of a tiring Tainio before Keane took centre stage with a moment of brilliance on 67 minutes. A long punt from Robinson deceived the Wigan defence and Keane sprinted forward and lobbed Filan with a dipping shot from 20 yards. Such was the fizz it was hit with, you wondered for a moment if the ball would bounce over the bar.

Jermain Defoe came on for Aaron Lennon with 15 minutes remaining in a bid to snatch maximum points - a move that saw Keane operate from the right of midfield. It was Pascal Chimbonda of all people who maybe should have scored next - something that would not have gone down too well with the home support. He was denied by a late block in a game not distinguished by quality defending.

Robinson had to claw Scharner's 40-yard dipper from under his crossbar in the last of the noteworthy action and a draw was about right.

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