Just when he was expected to revisit his own past, Mark Hughes is embarking on a different sort of nostalgia trip by delving into Fulham's history instead. The achievement has been obscured by their remarkable run in the Europa League last year, but they finished the 2008‑09 season in the most elevated position of their 132-year existence. The dual distinctions of being Fulham's record signing and the top scorer in statistically their most successful season belong to Andy Johnson.
Yet, hampered by a horrific run of injuries, he had endured a league drought that dated back to March 2009, when Hughes was plotting to buy Roque Santa Cruz (and Emmanuel Adebayor) for Manchester City. The manager's stated desire to recruit a forward for Fulham had prompted speculation about a reunion. Instead, Santa Cruz has rejoined his and Hughes's former club, Blackburn Rovers. "I didn't make a bid," Hughes said, adding, with a hint of impatience: "I get linked with a lot of my former players."
His current charges are of greater interest and after a long-awaited goal from Johnson here, Hughes is ready to stop looking for a new striker. "It's eased the anxiety that we felt in that regard," he said. "We're feeling very confident now we're getting good players back. If you look at our bench, it showed real strength in depth."
Like Johnson, Moussa Dembélé was brought back into the team as a replacement. Clint Dempsey's prowess as a stand‑in has also helped to prompt a rethink. The American is a scourge of Wigan; after having a goal disallowed, he set up Johnson for his equaliser. "I was pleased to get the assist by finding AJ, who delivered a great finish," he said. Hughes, well aware strikers can score in spurts, said:"I'm convinced now Andy will start to go on a run of games and goals."
Momentum can be a prerequisite for strikers. It is something Hughes believes his side, after a recent spell in the relegation zone, are acquiring. "We are in better shape than in the first half of the season, so we have enough ability in the squad to get in the top 10."
Johnson's equaliser put Wigan in a position that is more precarious. A sixth home draw could prove costly, though the relentlessly positive Roberto Martínez refuses to be deterred. "We are getting a lot more mature to find whatever it takes to score a goal," he said after an uncharacteristic Wigan strike.
Think of a goalkeeper doubling up as the playmaker and a footballing sophisticate like Martínez does not tend to spring to mind. Yet Hugo Rodallega scored with a composed lob from a second chance created by the goalkeeper, Ali al-Habsi. An example of Martínez taking route one, it was cancelled out by Johnson's blast from the past.