Watson strikes as Wigan close in on Europe
Wigan 1 Hull 0: Midfielder Ben Watson scored the only goal as Wigan wasted a host of chances yet still beat struggling Hull at the JJB Stadium. It appeared the Latics were heading for their seventh blank in 10 league matches. But Watson scored his second goal in a week with a looping 84th-minute volley.
It ended Wigan’s run of back-to-back goalless home games and re-ignited hopes of qualifying for Europe next season as they moved up to seventh.
Hull are still in trouble near the foot of the table, just four points above the relegation zone and with only one win in their last 14 matches.
The pattern of play was established in the second minute when Charles N’Zogbia’s long-range cross-shot had Matt Duke back-pedalling — and he only just managed to tip the ball over with the help of the bar and post.
When Dean Marney was robbed by Michael Brown from a Hull corner Wigan launched a swift counter-attack which saw N’Zogbia drill a pass across the six-yard area, the fingertips of Duke preventing Watson getting a touch.
Watson also forced Duke into a low save with a 25-yard shot in the 12th minute. Mido was next to squander a chance after Rodallega and Paul Scharner, making his 100th Premier League appearance, had exchanged quick passes to bypass the Hull midfield.
Scharner won a free-kick 20 yards out when Sam Ricketts pulled him down — a foul for which he was booked — but Rodallega curled his shot straight at Duke.
Mido fired over again from six yards after Scharner had out-jumped the defence to head Maynor Figueroa’s long ball down to Rodallega.
The Colombia striker should have done better moments later, having raced on to Scharner’s through ball with only the goalkeeper to beat — but Duke half-saved and then turned Scharner’s follow-up for a corner.
Hull were forced to make a substitution in the 38th minute when the injured Andy Dawson was replaced by Richard Garcia. It meant a reshuffle — with Ricketts switching sides, Bernard Mendy dropping to right-back and Garcia playing in front of him.
Mendy’s first act as a defender was to be booked for a waist-high challenge on N’Zogbia in the centre-circle.
The Wigan midfielder was forced off after a crunching challenge with Kamil Zayatte in first-half injury time and was replaced after the interval by Daniel de Ridder.
Having spent long periods with little to do, Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland had to be alert to tip over Manucho’s flashed header from Marney’s 50th-minute corner.
Titus Bramble dived in at Garcia on the edge of the penalty area and was booked. But Wigan managed to clear former Wigan midfielder Kevin Kilbane’s inswinging free-kick, before Craig Fagan was then cautioned for an unnecessary challenge on De Ridder.
Zayatte lasted just 15 minutes of the second half before being replaced by another Wigan old boy Caleb Folan, resulting in another defensive reshuffle.
Yet another chance went begging when Watson drilled a shot into the side-netting from the left corner of the penalty area — before substitute Amr Zaki rose highest in a crowd to head De Ridder’s cross against the foot of a post with Duke beaten.
But the goal finally came in the 84th minute, partly thanks to a mistake from Duke.
The goalkeeper’s weak punch did not get out of the penalty area — and when the ball dropped Watson looped a volley over Duke and in at the far post, despite Kilbane’s best efforts to keep it out.
It was the former Crystal Palace midfielder’s second goal in a week, after opening his account scoring in the 2-1 victory at Sunderland, and could not have come at a more timely moment with Wigan looking to have run out of ideas.