Stam delivers to rescue a point

Mohammed Diame and Ronnie Stam celebrate Stam's late equaliser
Mohammed Diame and Ronnie Stam celebrate Stam's late equaliser

RONNIE STAM scored a dramatic late equaliser to rescue a precious point for Latics that keeps them off the bottom of the Premier League.

The Dutchman popped up at the far post to slide home an inch-perfect cross by Steve Gohouri to register his first goal for the club at the most opportune of moments.

Rodrigo had put Wanderers ahead nine minutes into the second period, but Latics showed they have the stomach for the fight after overcoming a mountain of adversity to make their point.

The visitors had lost Tom Cleverley and Chris Kirkland before the hour mark – Cleverley pulling a hamstring early doors and Kirkland having to be stretchered off in a neck brace after a sickening collision with Johan Elmander.

But Wigan never gave up hope and, with stand-in stopper Mike Pollitt pulling off a series of magnificent late saves, ensured derby honours even for the second time this season.

Kirkland had returned to the Wigan side for the first time since October, replacing on-loan Ali Al Habsi, who was unable to face his parent club.

Roberto Martinez made two other changes to the side that lost to Newcastle at the weekend, Maynor Figueroa and James McArthur coming in for Jordi Gomez and Momo Diame.

That meant Gohouri switching from left-back to his more customary right-back berth, and Stam moving into the midfield.

And Latics were forced into another reshuffle within eight minutes of the start, when Cleverley pulled a hamstring chasing a ball through the left channel.

The England Under-21 international signalled immediately to the bench that his night was over, Diame replacing him on the left-hand side.

McArthur did well to cut out a Matt Taylor free-kick shortly after at the expense of a corner, which came to nothing.

And that was about it in terms of creativity for the opening half an hour, both teams struggling to put anything together in worsening rain.

Kirkland would have been happy at the way he was allowed to ease his way back into the fold, his only early scare being when referee Phil Dowd hurried him up when taking one goal kick.

Wigan had the first sight of goal just after the half-hour mark, and only a super save from Jussi Jaaskelainen prevented them taking the lead.

Hugo Rodallega was fouled 30 yards from goal, and the Colombian’s free-kick was arrowing in to the top corner before the Bolton goalkeeper tipped it round the post.

Bolton had their best moment seconds before the interval, when Taylor’s inswinging corner was headed past the post by Kevin Davies, although the big striker was all over Antolin Alcaraz and Dowd really should have awarded a free-kick.

Both sets of supporters would have been glad of the half-time break after such a tedious first period, but there was instant excitement at the beginning of the second stanza.

Taylor whipped in a free-kick from the right and Gary Cahill glanced a header inches wide of the far post.

There was almost a carbon copy moments later, Taylor again crossing from the right and Cahill this time heading over the bar with Kirkland nowhere.

Wigan weren’t so lucky nine minutes in, though, Mark Davies threading a nice ball through and Rodrigo controlling before clipping it past Kirkland.

Latics almost mustered an instant response, Figueroa crossing and Zat Knight clearing the ball with Stam and Rodallega lurking.

From the resulting corner, Wanderers broke downfield and Kirkland had to race off his line and clear the ball away from Elmander, who left the goalkeeper in a heap on the edge of his area.

After lengthy treatment, Kirkland was stretchered off in a neck brace having not moved since the impact, Pollitt coming on against his home-town club.

Rather than lick their wounds, Wigan showed their mettle by almost finding a way through within a minute of the restart, Alcaraz hoofing the ball forward to Rodallega, who was temporarily goalside of Cahill before losing his footing on the edge of the area.

And only the intervention of Sam Ricketts midway through the half stopped Figueroa getting the ball in to an unmarked Ben Watson in the danger zone.

Watson then saw a shot blocked by Cahill with Jaaskelainen scrambling across his box, but Wigan had to rely on Pollitt to keep them in it when Alcaraz’s mistake let in Elmander, only for the veteran custodian to make a stunning stop at point-blank range.

And Latics took full advantage of the break when Rodallega and Gohouri combined to lay on the late leveller for Stam, who was harshly booked for his celebrations in front of the delirious away contingent.

Wigan almost won it at the death when McArthur saw a pile-driving effort cannon off a defender and away to safety, although Wanderers too could have sneaked it when Martin Petrov’s last-minute shot was saved by Pollitt.

As the board went up for eight minutes of added time – most of it for Kirkland’s injury – Petrov saw a dangerous cross cut out by McArthur, before Pollitt pulled off another fabulous save to deny Elmander’s rasping volley with the last play of the game.