Premier League - Wigan beat Stoke to avoid drop

Sun, 22 May 18:07:00 2011

Wigan Athletic secured another season in the Premier League by beating Stoke City 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium on the final day of the campaign.

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For the first time this term Roberto Martinez's men kept a clean sheet on the road in the top flight, and they jumped to 16th place courtesy of Hugo Rodallega's late goal after other results went their way.

Stoke dominated the early stages of the match as the nervous Latics struggled.

But an improved Wigan took the field after the break and despite still being in the relegation zone with twenty minutes of the season remaining, struck late through Rodallega to ensure their survival.

Wigan began the day knowing that, depending on other results, a win might still see them relegated and a defeat could still mean survival.

Nonetheless, Martinez set out to attack, playing Connor Sammon, Rodallega and Charles N'Zogbia in a three-pronged forward line.

For their part Stoke fielded a strong side, with Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant included as Tony Pulis's men looked to end the year on a positive note following their FA Cup final defeat at the hands of Manchester City last weekend.

In the early stages it looked as if they would do so as Wigan failed to settle. Antolin Alcaraz's sloppy back-pass almost played Kenwyne Jones for a one-on-one chance just seconds into the contest.

With 14 minutes on the clock, the inspired Emmerson Boyce made a crucial goal-line block to deny Jones, whose shot from six yards had beaten goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.

Jones menaced the Wigan defence, going close once more with a snatched half-volley before Pennant began to become a threat and forced a save from distance.

The Latics, all the while, could scarcely string two passes together, defending bravely but offering little up front.

But just as they did the previous weekend - when they overturned a two-goal deficit in the second half to win and condemn West Ham to the Championship - Wigan improved immeasurably after the break.

Playing on the front foot, N'Zogbia became a danger, while Sammon made his first impression on the game with a couple of hits from distance.

Both sides had half-shouts for a penalty turned down by referee Andre Marriner - Stoke first when Jon Walters felt he had been hacked at by Maynor Figueroa just inside the area, and then Wigan after Pennant pulled back N'Zogbia.

Sammon made way for Tom Cleverley midway through the half, who almost immediately broke the deadlock with a low shot after N'Zogbia's run and perfectly-weighted through ball, but Asmir Begovic got down well to make the save.

News filtered through with a quarter of an hour remaining that Wigan, who had been marooned in the bottom three throughout, had moved out of the relegation zone after Blackpool and Birmingham had fallen behind in their games.

But the whispers quickly turned to cheers for the away fans when N'Zogbia's floated cross found Rodallega, whose clinical header into the far corner put Wigan in front with 12 minutes remaining.

The final moments were still nervous ones - Glenn Whelan went close with a free kick, while Dean Whitehead appealed long and loud for a penalty, but Wigan rode out those moments and even endured six minutes of stoppage time before finally celebrating a great escape and another season among England's elite.

Mark Patterson - follow me on Twitter @markjpatterson / Euro

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