Hodgson left purring after victory

 

Fulham 2 Wigan Ath 1:A GLANCE at the standings had indicated that Wigan needed the points more than Roy Hodgson’s band of continental travellers. But a week in which Fulham will take a 2-1 lead to Wolfsburg in the Europa League quarter-finals began perfectly for Hodgson with a win that lifted his side to 41 points and the near-certainty of Premier League football next season.

The manager, understandably, was purring afterwards. “I’m very proud. This is the sixth week we’ve played three games in a row,” Hodgson said.

However, there wa concern for Hodgson after the half-hour, in a spell that ended with Jason Scotland scoring his first Premier League goal for Wigan. Mark Schwarzer began a sorry catalogue of incidents by fumbling a long ball near the edge of his area. Maynor Figueroa pinged in a diagonal cross-shot hybrid that had Schwarzer back-pedalling before he managed to tip the ball over. Wigan were heartened, and from their next offering the goal arrived. Mario Melchiot stepped up from his right-back berth to deliver a hanging cross to Marcelo Moreno, whose cushioned header found Scotland and the striker scored his first top-flight goal by skidding a left-footed effort beyond Schwarzer.

Hodgson vented his fury by directing a kick at a chair in his dug-out. The manager found further frustration when Chris Kirkland made a fine save from Damien Duff’s cross which, via a deflection from a defender, had been spinning towards Wigan’s goal. At half-time, Hodgson had to remove David Elm, who had come in for Bobby Zamora, who is struggling with an achilles problem.

“David’s still recovering from a virus,” said Hodgson. “With hindsight, I made the wrong decision playing him because at the moment he’s in hospital on an ECG machine. The virus in his body is still there.”

Into the fray, then, came Stefano Okaka. His impact was instantaneous. Zoltan Gera produced a touch of trickery to drive into Wigan’s area and his low ball found the striker, who is on loan from Roma. His back-heeled finish defeated Kirkland.

Then came Brede Hangeland’s first goal of the season, which proved the winner. Duff stood up a corner, the Norwegian rose to meet it and his header flipped in off Kirkland’s left-hand post.