ROBERTO Martinez heaped praise on his defensive heroes after seeing Latics hold Everton to a goalless draw at Goodison Park.
The Wigan chief, who saw his side thumped 9-1 at Tottenham just over a year ago, was keen to flag up their improvement at the back as Everton huffed and puffed but could not break down a resolute rearguard.
The Spaniard, whose team remain 18th in the table but put an extra point between themselves and rock-bottom West Ham, said: “There are no big secrets in football.
“It is hard work, it is about developing good partnerships and commitment. If you look at the comparison, that is the real progress we have done.
“Before, probably, when we conceded one or two goals we dropped our standards too easily and we didn’t know how to maintain the level of performance for 95 minutes.
“That is why we are a lot more consistent in our level or performances if not results – which is the next step.
“The character we’ve shown will be vital.
“It would have been a very easy situation for us to feel sorry for ourselves with the injuries we have and see it as an impossible task.
“The manner in which we got through the difficulty of some periods of the game and the way we defended is the platform needed for the rest of the campaign.
“On the top of that, you can show your talent and quality to win games, but we showed the ingredients needed for any team to be successful.”
Martinez also praised young referee Michael Oliver for his handling of a scrappy game.
The Northumbria official angered Wigan’s players towards the end of the first half when he failed to award Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar a second yellow card for a very poor lunge on Hendry Thomas.
But Oliver showed similar leniency when he did likewise to Thomas moments later for what was clearly an ‘evening-up’ challenge.
“I felt he kept a good degree of consistency because, if I am honest with you, Hendry had a yellow card and then made another challenge and I’ve seen yellow cards come from that,” Martinez said.
“Pienaar’s was a really late challenge but I think you have to give credit to the referee because it was a difficult game to manage.”
After watching Latics repel attack after attack for 90 minutes, Martinez even felt they could have snatched victory right at the end when Ronnie Stam saw a goalbound shot brilliantly saved by Tim Howard.
“When you come to Goodison, you need all your players to be concentrating and on top of their game, and I think Ali Al Habsi had two or three moments when he showed his quality,” added Martinez.
“But I felt we finished the stronger side.
“In the first half, Everton got a very good momentum and were winning territorial advantage, and we just needed to defend well with a lot of composure.
“The performance was what we had to do and was what was needed to get a positive result but, in the manner we finished the game, I feel we dropped two points.”