Belfast Telegraph

Roger Espinoza rewards Roberto Martinez faith by inspiring Wigan fightback

By Jon Culley

Stoke City 2 Wigan Athletic 2: Queen's Park Rangers target Peter Crouch marked only his second Premier League start in two months with what may have been his last goal for Stoke before Wigan's new signing Roger Espinoza inspired his side to fight back impressively from two goals down to extend manager Roberto Martinez's unbeaten run against Stoke to eight matches.

While Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, ponders the wisdom of selling Crouch, save perhaps from bringing in a defender, Martinez has done much of his business and the Honduran Espinoza, signed on a free from Major League Soccer side Kansas City, looks a typically shrewd capture. The 26-year-old, who had been on the Martinez radar since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, set up second-half goals for James McArthur and Franco di Santo. Wigan have one in 11 but climb out of the bottom three on goal difference.

Yet the performance was greeted with mixed feelings by Martinez, whose record as Wigan manager against Stoke stands at two wins and six draws. "Not many teams come back from a 2-0 deficit at the Britannia but we should not dominate as we did and concede two goals," he said.

"There was a two-goal deficit but we kept playing the same way and you never saw a player losing their composure. We scored two goals which were as good as you are going to see in this league from open play, which was very difficult to do against this Stoke side," Martinez added.

Conceding the first goal is a habit Wigan must crack. When Ryan Shawcross put Stoke ahead after 23 minutes it was the 16th time in 24 matches so far that Wigan have gone behind to the opening goal, although this one in mitigation was unusually freakish as Jean Beusejour's attempt to head clear a Charlie Adam free kick rebounded off team-mate James McCarthy and back towards the Wigan goal, where Shawcross was lurking to hook the ball past Ali al-Habsi.

Wigan fell further behind early in the second half after Espinoza's misplaced pass allowed Glenn Whelan to lead a Stoke break, at the end of which Al-Habsi saved an Adam shot but pushed the ball straight to the feet of Crouch, following in, who scored his first goal since September.

But Wigan – and Espinoza – responded superbly with a fine goal, executed by McArthur via the outside of his right boot and the inside of the left post on the end of Espinoza's threaded pass.

They scored an equaliser on 61 minutes, Espinoza again involved when his cross was headed back across goal by McArthur and swept home by Di Santo. The point was well deserved.

Man of the match Espinoza.

Match rating 7/10.

Referee M Jones (Cheshire).

Attendance 24,421.

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