Everton 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Wigan Athletic's Arouna Kone (right) scores
Wigan Athletic's Arouna Kone (right) scores

WIGAN suffered more spot-kick controversy as as they came up agonisingly short against Everton.

Having been denied at both ends of the pitch in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Arsenal, Latics were once again choking on a sense of injustice as their wretched recent run continued.

After falling behind to Leon Osman’s heavily-deflected strike, Latics looked to have won a stonewall penalty when the same player tripped Shaun Maloney in the box.

But with the whole ground expecting referee Lee Mason to point to the spot, the official instead waved play on - much to Maloney’s utter disbelief, and anger.

Salt was rubbed into the wounds when Phil Jagielka then rose to head Phil Neville’s cross beyond Ali Al Habsi, which rendered Arouna Kone’s late strike mere consolation.

The return of Gary Caldwell was one positive for Roberto Martinez to take into Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa, with Ivan Ramis also in contention after being deemed fit enough for a spot on the bench today.

Caldwell’s return for the first time in nearly a month saw Franco di Santo miss out, with Maloney pushing into a more advanced role behind Kone.

Looking for a win to lift themselves out of the bottom three, Latics started promisingly and James McCarthy quickly found himself in time and space on the edge of the area.

Fortunately for the home side, one of the charging defenders managed to get a decent block in and they were able to clear.

At the other end Victor Anichebe, a regular scourge of Latics down the years, was seeing plenty of the ball, and shot wide with his side’s first sight of goal.

Anichebe then headed wide from Leighton Baines’ left-wing cross, before Latics regained their foothold in the game.

Maloney and Jean Beausejour attempted crosses that were too near Tim Howard, before Darron Gibson felled McCarthy on the edge of the area.

Maloney lined up the free-kick from 25 yards, but disappointingly fired straight at Howard.

Good interplay from Everton saw another Anichebe shot deflected wide, before a breakdown in communication at the back surrendered possession back to Latics.

Maloney assessed his options but his lob was too far in front of Kone, and the danger had passed.

Anichebe’s aim was again off target, before the big striker was claiming a penalty for jostling at one of four Everton corners in quick succession, with the official ruling otherwise.

That was about it for a relatively quiet first-half, but the game sprung into life within seconds of the restart as Everton came flying out of the blocks.

Thomas Hitzlsperger advanced from halfway towards the visitors’ box, and his piledriver beat Ali Al Habsi all ends up before hitting the top of the bar.

Wigan didn’t heed the warning, however, and Everton took the lead on 51 minutes.

Billinge-born Osman pulled the trigger from the edge of the area, and the ball looped past Al Habsi via the right arm of Caldwell.

The goalscorer’s cross then went all the way through the corridor of uncertainty and behind for a goal-kick, before Osman was involved in another major flashpoint.

Maloney got the ball in space down the left and tricked his way past Osman before going to ground inside the box.

It looked a stonewall penalty at real-time, but the official was unmoved and, indeed, booked Beausejour in the aftermath for complaining.

Latics were at least asking a few questions as the three-quarter mark approached, and Maloney fed Kone only for Neville to put in a great block.

The rebound drifted in between McCarthy and Beausejour to an Everton shirt, which summed the way the day was going reasonably well.

Di Santo replaced David Jones for the closing stages, but the Argentine had barely had a kick when Everton doubled their advantage.

Neville’s cross from the right was a good one, and Jagielka headed powerfully past Al Habsi to make it 2-0.

Jordi Gomez took over from Stam as Latics threw caution to the wind, and the visitors did pull one back when a mad scramble in the box saw Kone stab home past Howard.

And it was all Wigan in the dying seconds as Gomez’s strike deflected towards Howard with Kone sniffing around, before McCarthy drilled over the top with his side’s last chance.

Latics: Al Habsi 7; Boyce 7, Caldwell 7, Figueroa 7; Stam 6, McCarthy 7, McArthur 7, Beausejour 6; Jones 7, Maloney 6; Kone 7.

Subs: Pollitt, Golobart, Ramis, Gomez (for Stam, 80), McManaman, Boselli, Di Santo (for Jones, 71).

Everton: Howard; Nevill, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Pienaar, Hitzlsperger, Gibson, Osman; Jelavic, Anichebe.

Subs: Mucha, Heitinga (for Hitzlsperger, 70), Oviedo (for Anichebe, 70), Naismith (for Gibson, 46), Gueye, Barkley, Vellios.

Star Man: James McArthur