- After another difficult week off the pitch Wigan Athletic battled to a deserved point with a 1-1 draw at playoff chasing Watford.
- Latics tried to contain the hosts in the first half but they went behind just before half-time when Keinan Davis fired home.
- Shaun Maloney introduced substitute Callum Lang at half-time and the visitors changed to a more attacking formation.
- Latics stunned the hosts with an equaliser on 51 minutes when Lang crossed for James McClean to produce a superb header from the edge of the area into the top corner.
- The hosts Imran Louza hit the post with a 25-yard effort and forced a good save from Amos and at the other end Max Power and Lang had opportunities for Latics but the score remained level.
- Latics remain bottom of the table and are effectively six points from safety due to an inferior goal difference. Watford remain tenth and are five points from the playoffs.
Maloney made one change from the starting XI against Coventry City in midweek – with Tom Naylor coming into the starting line-up to replace Ashley Fletcher, who was ineligible for the game against his parent club.
After a tentative opening the first real opportunity fell the way of the hosts as a long ball from Daniel Bachmann was misjudged by Ryan Nyambe and Joao Pedro was through on goal. But although the Watford striker rounded Ben Amos he could only find the side netting with his effort.
As Latics adopted a defensive approach the hosts took control and matters were made more difficult for Latics with Charlie Hughes replaced due to an injury after only 12 minutes.
Leandro Bacuna hit a volley wide for the hosts as Latics had to defend deep. Ken Sema then fired a drilled effort across Latics’ six-yard box, but nobody was on hand to make the vital contact for the hosts.
A Jeremy Ngakia strike from 20-yards out flew wide of Amos’ right-hand post. The pressure continued and Louza was the next to try his luck but he pulled his effort wide of the target.
Danel Sinani had a rare effort for the visitors on 43 minutes when his 25 yard strike flew wide.
The Watford pressure finally told when Davis struck in the 45th minute. The striker turned inside in the Latics penalty area, and curled an effort past Amos to hand the hosts the lead at the break.
Maloney changed to a more attacking formation and Lang replaced Steven Caulker at half-time.
Lang looked lively on the right-hand side, and Latics were now posing a threat.
Latics deservedly drew level 51 minutes with McClean producing a superb header from the edge of the box.
Lang crossed the ball from the left-hand side, and the Republic of Ireland international powerfully headed into the top corner to stun the hosts.
Watford responded and soon came close twice through Louza. First, a low effort was well saved by Amos to his left-hand side, before the Moroccan midfielder hit the post from 30 yards with an excellent strike.
At the other end Latics threatened when the ball almost fell for Sinani inside the area but a last-ditch block denied the Norwich loanee’s effort heading goalwards.
Lang was then inches away from being through as a Sinani’s ball found him in space but he couldn’t get it under control and it was cleared.
Substitute Josh Magennis then played a through ball to Lang who managed to get his shot away, but Bachmann saved low down.
Ultimately neither side could gain the upper hand and Latics players could be proud that they had deservedly picked up an away point despite not having been paid.
It’s been another difficult week for everyone at Wigan Athletic but Maloney’s men responded superbly to the challenge at Watford.
The players could have refused to play after the owners once again failed to pay their wages but they showed their character and commitment to the fans by performing to the best of their abilities at Vicarage Road.
Latics are struggling with defensive injuries and they could easily have crumbled when Charlie Hughes went off injured but they battled back to get a deserved draw.
Due to the owners actions the club are now facing a points deduction from the EFL which will probably relegate them to League One.
Mr Al Jasmi and Chairman Talal Al Hammad should be ashamed of their recent behaviour after promising to be good custodians of the club.
Chief Executive Mal Brannigan and Shaun Maloney are flying out to Bahrain to have emergency talks with the owners.
They must give reassurances about the payment of wages and the future financial stability of the organisation.
However, if the Bahraini’s no longer have the resources they should put the club up for sale. New owners will hardly be queuing up to take over but the current chaotic situation cannot be allowed to continue.
Post match comments
Maloney speaking after the game said:
“I thought they were brilliant second half against a good Watford team. They had really big threats but I thought we were brilliant.
“I thought we were Ok first half, but we could have been better. It was a real poor goal to lose from our own goal kick, but second half we were very good. The substitutes who came on made a difference and if we were more ruthless in the second half we could have won that game.
“What you saw in the second half was a team who went toe to toe with Watford. This team has to start believing that when we are at our very best we can be a very difficult team to beat and a good team.
“Second half we made a tactical change and I thought we were excellent. To a man I thought they were outstanding today. I was disappointed not to win the game as well given the chances we created.”
On the fans and the difference they made yet again, Maloney added: “The last 24 hours has been very hard again, he continued.
“There has been a definite change in the atmosphere which is understandable given the uncertainty. I was concerned how resilient we would be if we went behind, but they answered everything.
“The fans were amazing and they have now got a team that give them absolutely everything. I hope they are happy with that performances and I want to give the players the credit they deserve today.”
Maloney’s players are still waiting for payment of their wages and Maloney admitted that “clarity” is a must when he joins CEO Mal Brannigan in Bahrain this weekend.
“I understand the magnitude of the situation and I think it is a necessity we get clarity for the supporters, for the players and staff on what the short term looks like and obviously what we are looking at the long term too.
“When I have that I can stand in front of the camera again, but today I want to speak about my players because they gave me everything. We have to be very pleased and proud of what they gave us.”