Latics fail to ease drop fears after letting Grant's second string off hook
Published 15/04/2010 | 05:00
WIGAN failed to secure the crucial victory against Portsmouth that would have banished their relegation fears, despite Avram Grant's decision to omit eight of the players who guided the relegated outfit to the FA Cup final.
Roberto Martinez's team extended the gap between themselves and the bottom three to five points following this uninspiring stalemate, but they will look back on this result as points dropped if they become mired in the relegation battle.
Having issued a veiled threat last month to field weakened teams in protest at the club being deducted nine points for entering administration, Portsmouth manager Grant prove true to his word by making eight changes from the team that started Sunday's FA Cup semi-final victory against Tottenham at Wembley.
Grant handed Premier League debuts to youngsters Joel Ward and Matt Ritchie and only chose to name four substitutes, rather than the full allocation of seven.
Having punished Wolves with a suspended fine of £25,000 for making 10 changes prior to their defeat at Manchester United in December, the Premier League are unlikely to hit Portsmouth harder than the Molineux club.
But with Wigan starting the game in 17th position, just one place above the bottom three, Grant's decision to make such wholesale changes is unlikely to be viewed favourably by West Ham, Bolton, Hull and Burnley.
Despite Portsmouth's under-strength line-up, however, the Latics were left to toil as they struggled to make headway against their already-relegated opponents.
The home side created enough opportunities to take the lead, but their finishing was too often wayward and careless. Austrian midfielder Paul Scharner proved the biggest culprit directing two good chances over the bar and straying offside before converting a Charles N'Zogbia cross -- which was correctly ruled out -- on 43 minutes.
Wigan continued to dominate possession in the second-half, but they lacked the creativity to test Portsmouth. Jason Scotland sent their only real chance wide when he headed Maynor Figueroa's cross beyond the far post on 61 minutes.
But as the game headed into its closing stages, Portsmouth goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown was forced into a crucial save to keep out James McCarthy's low strike from 20 yards. (© Daily Telegraph, London)