Wigan 2-2 Spurs - report from the DW Stadium...
Sat 27 April 2013, 18:00|Tottenham Hotspur
We claimed what could be an invaluable point with an 89th-minute equaliser in Saturday's 2-2 draw at Wigan - and went so close to completing the comeback in the final seconds.
As time ticked away, Tom Huddlestone fired a free-kick across the box and the ball cannoned off Emmerson Boyce and past a helpless Joel Robles in the Wigan goal.
There were two more chances in injury time - first, Gareth Bale was inches away from converting Clint Dempsey's cross and then, in the final action, Bale's free-kick was palmed out by Robles and in the scramble that followed, Huddlestone's effort was blocked and then Jermain Defoe was denied.
The point sees us move level with Chelsea in fourth on 62 points, although the Blues have a game in hand. Arsenal are a point ahead in third. Both of our rivals play on Sunday.
On a cloudy and occasionally bright afternoon in the North West, Andre Villas-Boas shuffled his pack slightly after last week's victory over Manchester City. Rewarded for his impact after coming on was Huddlestone, who lined up in a midfield three with Mousa Dembele and Scott Parker, with Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey further up in support of Jermain Defoe, who was restored to the side in place of the injured Emmanuel Adebayor.
Wigan have their own battles to fight as the season nears a finish and the crowd were stirred by a brief rendition of 'I'm a believer' before the beginning, but it was the massed ranks of travelling Spurs fans that really cranked up the atmosphere once the game got going.
It was a Huddlestone free-kick that caused the first major alert in the Wigan goal just a few minutes in. From an acute angle - with goalkeeper Robbles perhaps awaiting a cross - the midfielder speared the ball towards the near post, cracked the upright and, had the ball fallen a little more kindly for Michael Dawson, there could have been movement on the scoreboard.
The goalkeeper was not so fortunate on nine minutes when after casually exchanging passes with Maynor Figueroa, he was closed down by Bale and his clearance struck the bottom of the Welshman's boot and flew high into the net.
Joy was shortlived though when a minute later at the other end a Shaun Maloney corner was headed home by Emerson Boyce. It was a flurry of action that suggested it was going to be an unpredictable afternoon where you expect the unexpected.
What was certainly not unexpected was Huddlestone easing himself back into his midfield stroke play, pulling the strings from a deep lying position with authority and no little finesse.
Arouna Kone caused momentary panic with a lofted chip on 25 minutes that landed on the roof of the net after a smart break from Jordi Gomez. Defoe was thwarted at the last by Figueroa after a typical dash into the area, but it came at a price as the full-back ended up being stretchered off after his efforts.
Lewis Holtby readied himself quickly five minutes before the break, with it looking like there was going to be a quick change for Dembele and the switch duly took place with the Belgian clearly struggling.
The lead could have been restored just before half-time when, from a Huddlestone ball, Defoe weaved his way through to facing the goalkeeper before losing out and then Parker taking over with the same outcome and the ball eventually hoofed clear.
It was a bright and eventful half in which the team were on top and showing greater ambition, but some stubborness from Wigan and some good goalkeeping saw the score remain level when Mr Atkinson sounded the whistle for half-time.
Hugo Lloris was forced into athletic action shortly after the re-start when he brilliantly turned away Ronnie Stam's cross but could do nothing when Callum McManaman unleashed a piledriver high into the net on 49 minutes to put Wigan into the lead.
With 63 minutes on the clock, Kyle Naughton was replaced by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, with Aaron Lennon continuing to warm up along the touchline. Lennon was introduced 10 minutes later in place of Parker, with the minutes ticking away and little happening in terms of goalmouth action.
Lloris did well to prevent Wigan increasing their advantage with 10 minutes remaining when Kone forced his way through our defences, the goalkeeper blocking the one-on-one chance with his legs.
In the 89th minute a Huddlestone free-kick caused mayhem in the Wigan area, and with Holtby trying to make contact it was Boyce who shinned past his own keeper to bring us level and in with a late shout with four minutes stoppage time signalled.
The big chance came with a Defoe break, that led to a Dempsey cross in front of goal that Bale just failed to reach with his head. Another dart by Defoe resulted in him being chopped down, giving the chance for Bale to strike, but a desperate save from Robles and then a scramble was it for the day at the DW Stadium.
Wigan (4-1-4-1): Robles; Boyce, Figueroa (Stam, 35), Scharner, Beausejour; McCarthy; McManaman (Di Santo, 63), McArthur, Gomez (Espinoza, 79), Maloney; Kone. Unused subs: Al Habsi, Caldwell, Watson, Henriquez.
Spurs (4-3-3): Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton (Assou-Ekotto, 64); Dembele (Holtby, 41), Huddlestone, Parker (Lennon, 74); Dempsey, Defoe, Bale. Unused subs: Friedel, Caulker, Carroll, Sigurdsson.
Yellow cards: Wigan - Gomez, Di Santo, Scharner. Spurs - Dawson.
Goals: Wigan - Boyce (11), McManaman (49). Spurs - Bale (9), Boyce (own goal, 89),
Referee: Mr M Atkinson.