Stoke 2 Wigan Athletic 2

Stoke City's Jonathan Walters challenges Wigan Athletic's James McCarthy
Stoke City's Jonathan Walters challenges Wigan Athletic's James McCarthy

A LATE, late penalty from ice-cool Ben Watson rescued a point that enabled 10-man Latics to end 2011 on a high.

Latics secured their top-flight status on the last day of last term with a fighting victory, and for 75 minutes it looked as though Victor Moses’ first-half goal was going to secure another priceless three points.

But an inspired substitution from Tony Pulis changed the game on its head, as Cameron Jerome firstly won a penalty that Jon Walters converted and then slotted home number two himself within the space of nine minutes.

With Latics a man down having had Gary Caldwell red-carded for his role in Stoke’s penalty, it looked all over for the visitors.

But there was still time for referee Michael Oliver to award a second penalty, this time to Wigan, with only five minutes remaining for a foul on Hugo Rodallega.

With regular penalty-taker Jordi Gomez having just been substituted, Watson was sent on by Roberto Martinez as the Potters disputed the award of the spot-kick.

And his first task after running on was to smash home the equaliser past Thomas Sorensen right in front of the visiting supporters.

In truth, it was no more than Latics deserved for a backs-to-the-wall performance that continued their recent resurgence.

Rodallega had made a surprise return to the side, with Conor Sammon relegated to the bench despite having his Boxing Day red card at Manchester United overturned.

The Colombian had been the hero on Wigan’s last trip to the Britannia, and he was immediately into the game as Latics set out their stall to defend in numbers and try to attack on the break.

Gomez had the first real shot after seven minutes, a left-foot strike from outside the area that was well saved by Sorensen.

And Rodallega worked the goalkeeper three minutes later with a snap-shot that was creeping into the far corner before the Dane’s intervention.

Ali Al Habsi was then called into the action to tip away a Peter Crouch header as the Potters launched a textbook up-and-under into the area.

And Stoke showed they’re more than a one-trick pony by parading their other main attacking ploy, Rory Delap’s long throw-in this time causing confusion resulting in Robert Huth heading just wide.

After managing to get the ball down on to the deck, Latics twice threatened around the midway point of the first half.

First, Ronnie Stam was invited forward from right-back to within 25 yards of the Stoke goal, and his shot was dipping under the bar before the left hand of Sorensen diverted it over for a corner.

Sorensen could only look on and hope for back-up in Wigan’s next attack, Rodallega racing on to a long ball from the back and touching the ball round the goalkeeper, who was now in no-man’s land.

However, with Rodallega waiting for the ball to drop to apply the killer finish, Ryan Shawcross nipped in to spare his team-mate’s blushes.

Latics were moaning on the half-hour mark when Moses was yellow-carded for jumping up in front of another Delap throw-in, but other than that it was a relatively comfortable opening to the game for the visitors.

There was a comedy moment just before the break when Maynor Figueroa found the ball at his feet 10 yards inside his own half and spotted Sorensen off his line.

Almost two years to the day after his 60-yard effort won ‘Goal of the Season’ award, this time the Honduran’s shot sliced horribly off his left foot and barely made it behind for a goal-kick.

Stam became the second name into Oliver’s notebook for taking his frustration at mis-controlling a regulation ball out on the crowd, and was perhaps fortunate his petulant lash into the cheap seats onto the far side hit plastic and not a home supporter in the face.

It wasn’t long before Stam was upsetting the home supporters again - but this time with the full blessing of his manager and team-mates.

The right-back again got into an attacking position and picked the perfect time to release an unmarked Rodallega down the channel.

Rodallega’s cross was inch-perfect, and it deserved nothing less than to be side-footed home into the roof of the net by Moses.

Having taken the lead at exactly the right time, Wigan knew they were in for another 45-minute working-over in the second half if they were to see it out.

Stoke were forced into a change inside the first five minutes of the second half, Andy Wilkinson limping off and being replaced by Ryan Shotton, another long-throw specialist.

And the Potters were almost on level terms by the hour mark.

It was another long-throw that caused the problem, Delap’s delivery being met on the full at the far post by Huth.

The connection was powerful enough, but the aim was inches out and the ball smacked against the post before flying into the grateful arms of Al Habsi.

It probably wasn’t required, but the incident would have served as a warning to the visitors that their job was still far from being complete.

Figueroa and Momo Diame showed the way forward by advancing and having speculative shots blocked, the first by Sorensen and the second by Huth at the expense of a corner.

The resulting set-piece was curled in beautifully by Gomez, but Rodallega headed horribly wide from close range to keep the home side in the game.

Figueroa was then forced off for a lengthy spell of treatment as the game entered the final quarter, but the defender was able to carry on.

However, Latics lost one of their backline with 15 minutes left when Caldwell was sent off in controversial circumstances.

Another deep cross was headed back across goal by Crouch into the path of Jerome, only just on for Matthew Etherington.

Al Habsi looked to have Jerome’s header covered, but the ball didn’t make it past Caldwell, who jumped with both arms outstretched and managed to block the ball with his left forearm.

Referee Oliver waited an eternity before brandishing red, which understandably didn’t go down well with the visiting players, and Rodallega picked up a yellow for his over-zealous complaints.

Al Habsi had saved three of the four penalties he’d faced so far this term, but he had no chance as Walters placed the ball on the spot and lashed it past the goalkeeper into the bottom corner.

Latics threw on Steve Gohouri for Gomez as they tried to shut up shop, but the home side were totally in the ascendency at this point.

And they took the lead six minutes from time when Jerome raced on to another long ball from the back and slotted past Al Habsi with aplomb.

The game had completely been turned on its head in the space of nine minutes, leaving Roberto Martinez crestfallen in the technical area.

But there was to be another twist barely a minute later, when Rodallega went down under Shotton’s challenge in the Stoke box and Oliver again pointed to the spot.

As the Potters took their turn to feel aggrieved, Martinez took the opportunity to send on Watson for David Jones with new penalty-taker Gomez having just been replaced.

The midfielder had missed his last two attempts, at Swansea and Wolves, leading to him losing the duties to the Spaniard.

But this time he held his nerve in the face of incredible pressure to send Sorensen the wrong way and secure a share of the spoils.

Latics: Al Habsi 7; Alcaraz 8, Caldwell 8, Figueroa 8; Stam 8, McCarthy 7, Diame 8, Jones 7; Gomez 7, Moses 7; Rodallega 8.

Subs: Pollitt, Gohouri (for Gomez, 79), Crusat, McArthur, Watson (for Jones, 85), Di Santo, Sammon.

Stoke: Sorensen; Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson; Pennant, Delap, Palacios, Etherington; Walters, Crouch.

Subs: Begovic, Upson, Shotton (for Wilkinson, 50), Whitehead, Diao, Jones (for Walters, 90), Jerome (for Etherington, 74).