17-year-old substitute Joe Gelhardt produced a moment of quality to rescue a vital away point for Wigan Athletic at Hull City in a 2-2 draw. The England U18 youth international scored his first Championship goal with a beautiful turn and left foot finish to draw the visitors level.
Latics had taken an early lead when Kieffer Moore headed on Charlie Mulgrew’s free-kick and Tigers keeper George Long spilled the ball to Chey Dunkley who finished from inside the six yard box. But the hosts quickly drew level after some shambolic Latics defending allowed Jarrod Bowen to score from close range.
The Tigers were ahead on 20 minutes when Kamil Grosicki’s superb free-kick from the edge of the box found the top corner. The hosts had further chances to take all three points with Dunkley and Mulgrew making crucial last ditch challenges and keeper David Marshall saving well from another Grosicki free-kick.
Latics remain in the bottom three on five points after seven games while the Tigers move up to 20th place with six points.
Paul Cook named an unchanged line up from the 0-0 draw against Barnsley in the last Championship fixture.
The visitors were ahead after only eight minutes when Mulgrew’s free-kick was headed on by Moore and Long could only push the ball into the path of Dunkley who fired high into the net from inside the six yard box.
The lead didn’t last long though as the Tigers were level on 10 minutes when Grosicki was allowed to run unchallenged before crossing to Bowen who played a one-two off defender Mulgrew before slotting home.
Latics were struggling to put together an attacking threat and matters got worse on 20 minutes when Nathan Byrne brought down Grosicki on the edge of the area and the Poland international got up to curl a superb free-kick into the top corner of Latics’ net.
Byrne was having a torrid time against Grosicki and Dunkley and Mulgrew came to the rescue on several occasions.
Jamal Lowe, Gavin Massey, Michael Jacobs and Moore weren’t linking up very well and Latics main attacking threat came from set-pieces.
Latics rode their luck just before the interval as Marshall saved well and Dunkley produced a last ditch tackle to deny Tom Eaves.
The visitors did improve in the second half as they upped the tempo with Antonee Robinson posing a big threat down the left hand side. But despite enjoying plenty of possession they failed to create many clear cut opportunities and Hull always looked dangerous on the counter attack.
Grosicki nearly added to the Tigers lead with an almost replica free-kick to his goal but this time his strike was tipped onto the post by Marshall.
Gelhardt and Joe Garner replaced Massey and Moore on 72 minutes and within three minutes Latics were level after superb work by the youngster.
Gelhardt linked up with Lowe down the right hand side and then turned inside his marker before unleashing an unstoppable strike past Long. It was a very special moment for the 17-year-old and it was probably the one bright light in a distinctly average performance by Latics.
The England U18 youth international is reportedly being pursued by several Premier League clubs and he must surely start in the next home game against Charlton Athletic.
Under pressure manager Cook will be relieved to have taken a rare away point at the KCOM Stadium. Latics rarely threatened in open play until Gelhardt’s appearance and defensively they looked vulnerable to the hosts counter attacks. Cook has a massive task ahead if he is to save his job and get Latics back to playing the type of attractive football that was typical of his early days at the club.