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IT'S LOW POINT; Latics edging closer to drop as old boy strikes blow.

Byline: DERICK ALLSOP

WIGAN 1 McArthur 54 WESTBROM 1 Scharner 65 EVEN Roberto Martinez's relentless optimism may not be enough to persuade the natives that Wigan can escape the drop yet again this season.

They dominated and battered West Brom for long periods of this tense match yet emerged with a point that served as meagre reward. Twice in a one-sided first half they hit the bar and when James McArthur gave them a 54th-minute lead, it seemed their luck had finally changed.

But before they could consolidate that rare position of authority, their former player Paul Scharner summoned a body blow of an equaliser.

Still, Wigan had their chances, but they were squandered. The main culprit was Franco Di Santo.

But Martinez refused to blame the Argentinian striker and remains hopeful Wigan can still win a reprieve.

The Spaniard said: "We're really frustrated and it's a football injustice. We need Lady Luck to come to the DW Stadium.

"We created chances but sometimes you need that bit of luck. The players are down. We made West Brom look quite average. But I'm extremely proud of them.

""This is the best we've played in three years and maybe the result we need will come against one of the top clubs. Now we have to be even better and keep a clean sheet."

West Brom boss Roy Hodgson sympathised with Martinez and said: "You have to credit Wigan for doing everything they could to win and they can consider themselves unlucky.

"We were nowhere near our best but some teams in our position would have shown less character to get something out of the game, so it was a good point for us today."

Substitute Mohamed Diame missed a golden opportunity and Ben Foster pulled off a crucial save in a frenetic stoppage-time spell to add to Wigan's frustration.

All the angst could have been averted if Di Santo had capitalised on just one of the openings presented to him.

Wigan had to start without the injured Hugo Rodallega and Martinez gave Shaun Maloney his first Premier League start.

West Brom, relieved of lateseason anxieties, were without Peter Odemwingie but, by way of consolation, recalled centreforward Shane Long for his first start since New Year's Day because of a heart scare.

Long was a distant observer of the early skirmishes in his own penalty area as Albion's defence came under a barrage of assaults.

Di Santo sliced off target as he stretched to meet a cross, then forced Foster into a vital fingertip save. From the subsequent corner, Gary Caldwell made the perfect run but could not find the finish.

Di Santo failed to make telling contact with Maloney's cross and Foster turned James McCarthy's drive on to his bar.

Albion reached the break unscathed, but their luck came to an end early in the second half.

Victor Moses' persistence on the right paid off for him to feed the ball into the six-yard area and Gareth McAuley's block merely set up the chance for McArthur to convert.

Antolin Alcaraz was a stud's length away from giving Wigan the breathing space of a second as Albion's defence was again found wanting.

But Wigan's defence was no more assured from Brunt's in-swinging corner and Scharner, unchallenged at the far post, headed the equaliser.

Wigan were aggrieved Youssouf Mulumbu was not sent off after raising his arms in anger after a McArthur challenge, with referee Michael Oliver settling for a yellow card.

ALLSOP'S VERDICT A match that summed up Wigan's season. They created a catalogue of chances but converted only one and West Brom went away with a point they hardly deserved.

CAPTION(S):

JOY: Scorer Scharner (left) celebrates with Gareth McAuley (right) and Liam Ridgewell JAMES THE FIRST. . TO NET Wigan's McArthur is alert to score opening goal from close range early in the second period A DRAW Scharner beats Alcaraz to the ball to nod home the equaliser sHEADING FOR
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 18, 2012
Words:659
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