Bent commitment cannot end Wigan worries
Wigan Athletic 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Enough has been said to Marcus Bent about Wigan Athletic's tightrope walk away from the bottom three last season to convince him he wants no part in any such brinkmanship this time.
Which is why he could have been feeling better about life after his glaring second-half miss prolonged the nagging relegation fears that might have been laid to rest at the expense of meandering Tottenham Hotspur.
By shaking Spurs' bar rather than their net when clean through from Wilson Palacios' incisive 60th minute pass, the on-loan striker failed to virtually secure with three matches left what Wigan famously managed at Sheffield United at the very last in 2006-07.
"I know I should have scored," admitted Bent, who is still goalless since Christmas. "It probably would have meant three points and made us a lot safer than we are."
His wastefulness carried a double edge. Having been relegated last spring with Charlton Athletic, he has to sweat a little longer over survival and a permanent move; until next Saturday's home game against Reading, maybe.
"I want to be here," he added. "It has been said to me and my agent that if Wigan stay up, there's a contract for me. We know what we've got to do – go and win. We could sit here with our cushion and hope everyone loses but we won't be doing that."
Bent will almost certainly be fit despite a gashed knee and will hope Emile Heskey is, too, his strike partner having gone off feeling his hamstring on the day he added to his last-gasp equaliser at Chelsea last Monday.
Meagre though Heskey's goal rations are (two in a week but still only four in the season), Steve Bruce admitted that Chris Hutchings and not he may now have been Wigan's manager had the injury-plagued striker not missed so much of the autumn. The England man restored equilibrium following Wigan's shock in conceding at home for the first time in three months – the rare dent in their fortress coming during a storming Spurs start and via the boot of Dimitar Berbatov.
Even in the Bulgarian's wondrous world, this was a moody performance, full of tantrums, often aimed at himself and Wigan's notorious pitch but once notably and justifiably at Lee Probert after the referee had failed to spot his shoulders in the grabbing hands of Mario Melchiot at Jermaine Jenas's free-kick.
Tottenham's players appear to have had one foot in the Med – or in Berbatov's case the Black Sea – since their Uefa Cup exit. Like their season, this display petered out, despite Tom Huddlestone's excellent passing and the fitful threat of Aaron Lennon.Not until August is manager Juande Ramos likely to be able to push on from their Wembley success.
Goals: Berbatov (6) 0-1; Heskey (12) 1-1.
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Scharner, Boyce, Kilbane; Valencia, Palacios, Brown, Taylor (Koumas, 81); Heskey (Sibierski, 76), M Bent (King, 84). Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Skoko.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Cerny; Hutton, Dawson, Zokora, O'Hara; Lennon, Jenas, Huddlestone, Malbranque; Berbatov, Keane (D Bent, 73). Substitutes not used: Forecast (gk), Rocha, Gilberto, Tainio.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).
Booked: Wigan Valencia, Palacios. Tottenham O'Hara.
Man of the match: Huddlestone.