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Wigan deny brave Notts County

Notts County came within a whisker of producing one of the great FA Cup upsets at Meadow Lane yesterday only for Wigan Athletic to produce a spirited fightback and spare their own blushes on a thrilling afternoon.

This would not have been quite as humbling a defeat as the one Roberto Martinez suffered at the hands of Havant & Waterlooville during his time at Swansea City, yet it would have been painful enough for the Wigan manager considering County reside 62 places below his side on the League ladder and have not beaten a top-flight team since 1991.

First-half goals from Lee Hughes and Ben Davies rewarded County's fine start. But a gripping second half began with Jason Scotland pulling one back with his first goal for Wigan before the substitute Ben Watson secured a replay for the Premier League side with a close-range header seven minutes from time.

County's manager, Dave Kevan, said: "We played some great stuff in the first half, but I just wanted us to try and keep it at 2-0 for a little while longer after half-time. Full credit to Wigan, though, they responded well when they needed to and showed their class and ability to come back at us like that. I'm pleased for the players. Hopefully now we can use this as a platform to go on and do well in the League and get into the top three. If we can repeat this kind of display then it should bode well for the rest of the season."

This spectacle at least gave home supporters some respite from the club's troubles off the pitch, and there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the financial concerns, with the executive chairman, Peter Trembling, addressing a section of ticket holders prior to kick-off to reveal he and the director of football, Sven Goran Eriksson, were confident of securing investment within 48 hours.

There were warning signs for Wigan when Antonio Amaya was twice forced into desperate interceptions to prevent Hughes from having a clean run at goal, yet it was Martinez's side who came closest to ending the stalemate in the 23rd minute when Jordi Gomez released Hugo Rodallega. But his drive came back off the post and into the grateful arms of Kasper Schmeichel.

It was to prove a turning point, as County took the lead just three minutes later. There seemed little danger when Davies stroked a hopeful ball forward, but Hughes was determined to reach it and somehow managed to brush aside the powder-puff challenge of Amaya before beating Vladimir Stojkovic with a low shot.

It got even better for County six minutes before the interval when Davies doubled their advantage with a delightful free-kick after Titus Bramble had hacked down Hughes. Martinez knew he was in trouble, and must have known it wasn't going to be his day when James McCarthy struck the post on the stroke of half-time, yet Scotland offered them hope with a goal in the 52nd minute following a smart interchange with Rodallega.

The clocked ticked towards a famous upset, but when Bramble nodded Charles N'Zogbia's corner back across goal Watson reacted first to head home the equaliser.

Martinez said: "The first-half display simply wasn't good enough. We needed to stand up and be counted in the second half and the urgency was much better. It was a terrific game."

Attendance: 9,073

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Man of the match: Davies

Source: Independent

Belfast Telegraph