BEN Watson made a welcome return from almost five months out injured with a 45-minute reserve-team run-out yesterday.
The midfielder hadn’t been seen in a blue-and-white shirt since November 17, when he suffered a badly broken leg in the 3-0 defeat at Liverpool.
Watson came off second best following a collision with Raheem Sterling, and his guile and creativity has been missed in the engine room.
But after months of gruelling rehabilitation, the 27-year-old finally made it back onto the field in the Development Squad’s 2-2 draw with Huddersfield at the DW.
Watson even came close to marking his return with a goal, sending a free-kick narrowly wide of the target in the early stages.
Danny Redmond showed him how it’s done with a cracking free-kick that did break the deadlock, and Josh Sumner made it two before the interval.
But two goals in the space of three second-half minutes from Lee Novak ensured honours ended even.
Meanwhile, Shaun Maloney admits the emotions generated by his fabulous free-kick that rescued a point at QPR at the weekend was more relief than elation.
Despite having a one-man advantage for three-quarters of the encounter, Latics looked like coming home empty-handed when Loic Remy fired a magnificent shot past Joel Robles with only six minutes remaining.
Thankfully for Latics, Maloney popped up with a delicious set-piece in the fourth minute of added time that gave Latics a priceless point in their own fight against the drop.
“In the end it’s a definitely a point gained when you manage to score in stoppage-time,” Maloney acknowledged.
“But we’re obviously still a bit disappointed with how we played overall.
“For large parts of the game, QPR were the better side and obviously that shouldn’t really happen with a man less.
“I didn’t know how long we had left when I lined up the free-kick, but we were obviously running out of time.
“You practice them in training and just trust yourself that your technique comes off at that particular moment.
“It doesn’t always happen like that, but fortunately it did on the day.
“It’s generally not the side that a right-footer would take it.
“But there’s a type of technique that you practice for ones that are that close – and it came off this time.
“And it was relief more than anything else when I saw the ball hit the net.”