The wait has encompassed 26 league games in 22 months pockmarked by a litany of injuries, but finally it is over: Andy Johnson has scored. The Fulham forward's first top-flight goal since March 2009 was a scruffy strike, but, under the circumstances, one that only those with an allegiance to Wigan could begrudge him. It was some consolation for the frustration of the past two years.
The decisive deflection off Antolín Alcaraz and the despairing flail of an outstretched arm by Ali al-Habsi meant it was an unlucky goal for Wigan to concede. For Johnson, it meant he has not got a monopoly on misfortune. A knee injury was followed by collarbone, groin and hamstring problems. Sidelined more often than he started, the ex-England forward had become an afterthought.
His introduction today proved a fine piece of thinking by Mark Hughes. Brought on with a quarter of an hour remaining, he had an immediate impact: Al-Habsi blocked an attempted lob straight away. Within 10 minutes, after Clint Dempsey's pass and aided by two telling touches from the Wigan rearguard, he had equalised. "That will do him the world of good," said Hughes. "All he's been missing was goals and now he can kick on. Strikers thrive on goals; it's a cliché, but it's true. You see the energy he gives the team."
Indeed, with his constant movement, Johnson provided a spark. While Fulham had only posed an intermittent threat before Hugo Rodallega opened the scoring, they rallied impressively. Dempsey, an increasing influence, had a goal disallowed for a handball before Johnson ensured the Premier League's draw specialists had a share of the spoils for the 11th time this season. "It feels like a loss," said Wigan manager Roberto Martínez. "Conceding so late leaves a bad taste in the mouth."
Yet the sight of first Moussa Dembélé and then Johnson entering proceedings illustrated Fulham have striking reserves that Martínez does not possess. Now Mauro Boselli, the underachieving club-record buy, has been loaned to Genoa, his attacking options are still more limited. It was no coincidence that Wigan's attempts on goal were a one-man effort: Rodallega's six chances proof of the Colombian's persistence. He twice struck the post, with a header from Ronnie Stam's inviting cross and a poked shot after an incisive burst from Charles N'Zogbia, either side of a wonderfully taken goal.
It was counter-attacking football merged with the long-ball game. Al-Habsi's punt forwards caught Fulham unawares. Rodallega accelerated on to it, gaining the advantage in his private duel with David Stockdale by executing a deft lob that left the Fulham keeper stranded. "I'm disappointed in the manner of the goal we conceded," added Hughes. "That's unlike us." It is equally unusual to see Johnson celebrating, but it was a far more welcome sight for Fulham.
THE FANS' PLAYER RATINGS AND VERDICT
DAVE WHALLEY, Observer reader On the balance of play, we were fortunate to get a draw. Both teams were slightly above woeful in the first half, but the tempo picked up in the second. But we didn't kick on after we scored and allowed Fulham back in the game. With five minutes to go, we should have killed time, but we lost the ball and they went up the other end and scored. Al-Habsi pulled off a great save in the first half and was unlucky with the goal, but otherwise I'd struggle to say any of our players was outstanding. It could be the point that keeps us up, in which case it'll be a great point, but we have to beat the teams around us, especially at home.
The fan's player ratings Al Habsi 8; Gohouri 6, G Caldwell 6, Alcaraz 7, Figueroa 6; Watson 6 (Di Santo 86 6), Thomas 7, Diamé 5; Stam 5 (McArthur 73 6), Rodallega 7, N'Zogbia 7
VICTORIA CONNOLLY, Observer reader We deserved more than a point from this game. The second half was almost all in their half and most of their chances were on the counter. It was fantastic Andy Johnson scored, but we had a couple of penalty shouts turned down and a goal disallowed for handball, which takes the shine off the point a bit. It was a good match and Etuhu had another stonking game: the play always seemed to go through him and he made some great tackles. He even had a chance to score. But the whole team's performance was really good - we haven't been great on the road this season, so a draw's not too bad.
The fan's player ratings Stockdale 5; Pantsil 7, Hughes 8, Hangeland 8, Baird 8; Duff 7, Murphy 7, Etuhu 9, Davies 6 (A Johnson 76 8); Dempsey 9; Kamara 7 (Dembélé 58 7)
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