WIGAN Athletic were given an unexpected boost last night after the Ivory Coast’s shock elimination from the African Nations Cup at the quarter-final stage.
The Elephants were hot favourites to win the tournament, but were shocked 2-1 by Victor Moses’ Nigerian side. That means Arouna Kone, who was once again an unused substitute will be returning to Wigan a couple of weeks earlier than expected.
It’s a major boost ahead of Saturday’s trip to European champions Chelsea, who ironically will now be without the services of Moses due to Nigeria’s run to the last four.
Latics will travel to Stamford Bridge rooted in the bottom three, with Roberto Martinez admitting Latics were fortunate to escape with a point against fellow strugglers Southampton.
Despite taking an early lead through skipper Gary Caldwell, Latics never really settled into their stride which allowed the Saints to dominate proceedings.
Rickie Lambert netted a deserved equaliser just after the hour mark, and it looked like the visitors had found a winner when Morgan Schneiderlin slotted past Ali Al Habsi with five minutes remaining.
However, Latics somehow managed to drag themselves off the canvas, and Shaun Maloney levelled right at the death to rescue a point.
“I was very pleased with the reaction we had at the end – the character and the desire to want to get a positive result,” acknowledged Martinez.
“In that respect I’m very pleased, even though I don’t think we performed in the manner we want to or with the fluency we normally have.
“Now is the time to be happy with what we’ve collected on the day.
“The top and bottom of it is that we have increased our points tally, and that was the main aim.
“I expect the teams around us to pick up a lot of points between now and the end of the season, so unless we continue to take results then we can’t achieve our aim.”