x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Stoke City 2 Wigan Athletic 2

Roberto Martinez paid tribute to the character of his players as they battled back from two goals down to escape the Premier League relegation zone.

Franco Di Santo celebrates with James McArthur after scoring Wigan's equaliser against Stoke.
Franco Di Santo celebrates with James McArthur after scoring Wigan's equaliser against Stoke.

Roberto Martinez paid tribute to the character of his players after watching Wigan battle back to a 2-2 draw at the Britannia Stadium.

The Latics scored two fine goals at the Britannia Stadium through James McArthur's clipped finish in the 50th minute and striker Franco Di Santo's volley in the 61st, although it only served as a fightback after the visitors had twice been punished for lapses at the back.

The point, however, moved Wigan out of the English Premier League relegation zone as the battle to avoid the drop heats up.

"I feel we went into half-time with Stoke having too much to show for it," admitted Martinez.

"One counter-attack gave them a two-goal lead and I don't think there are many teams at the Britannia Stadium that would be able to come back from that.

"But from that point on, you look at the way we kept the ball and the way we kept showing that character.

"There was a two-goal deficit but we kept playing the same way and you never saw a player losing their composure.

"We scored two goals which were as good as you are going to see in this league from open play, which was very difficult to do against this Stoke side.

"Then we restricted Stoke to no corners. That is down to the hard work of the players and at the end, if I'm honest with you, I think the players were very disappointed that we dropped two points today.

"But it is something we need to improve a little bit more - you can't be that dominant in the second half but concede two goals."

On a pitch made slick by a spell of heavy rain, it was Stoke who then settled quickest, with Jon Walters skewing an effort wide and Wigan league debutant Roman Golobart having to make a clearance to prevent a flick-on from Peter Crouch reaching Charlie Adam.

Halfway through the first half, Adam delivered a free kick into the box which Jean Beausejour attempted to clear it but could only nod the ball against teammate James McCarthy, sending it into the path of Ryan Shawcross, the Stoke captain, who finished from close-range to register his first goal of the season.

Three minutes into the second half, new Wigan signing Roger Espinoza lost possession and Stoke's resulting break saw Adam hit a low shot which Ali Al Habsi parried, allowing Crouch - who had not scored since September - to slot in.

Wigan's reply was virtually immediate, with Espinoza making a more positive contribution by sliding in a through-ball which McArthur clipped home delightfully.

And after Adam had struck a free kick wide, Espinoza's redemption continued as he fashioned a cross which McArthur headed back for Di Santo to volley in on the hour mark to level the scores.

Crouch, whose goal was his sixth of the season and first since September, has been linked with a return to his former club QPR as the January transfer window nears its Thursday deadline.

Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, admitted afterwards he was disappointed to see his side lose goals in such a fashion.

"It should never have happened," the Stoke manager said. "The people should stay with their runners.

"First half we were OK, we pressed and had the impetus, but after scoring the second goal you think you are going to win it.

"I couldn't see us getting beaten after we went 2-0 up, but we haven't beaten Wigan since 2009 and they seem to be a bit of bogey team for us."

Pulis confirmed he had received an inquiry from Harry Redknapp about Peter Crouch.

"QPR have enquired about Peter - whether we do it or not, you will have to wait and see," he said.

"Harry has rung me up and asked me about the possibility. I have spoken to Peter about it and then it is up to Peter whether he wants to go. Peter is very happy here and he has made that clear."

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