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16:53 17th March 2012

AWAY-GOAL specialist Paul Scharner earned Albion a battling point at his former club with a 65th-minute leveller.

The Baggies were lucky to be level at half-time after the Latics bossed the opening 45 minutes and twice hit the crossbar.

And Wigan deservedly got their noses in front through James McArthur's scrambled effort on 54.

But Roy Hodgson's men looked a more purposeful outfit after falling behind and Scharner headed them level 11 minutes later from Chris Brunt's corner.

It was the Austrian international's third of the season and seventh for the Baggies in total - all coming on opposition soil.

The draw made it just two defeats in nine away games for Albion and edged them within four points of the key 40-point barrier.

The FA Cup quarter-finals had largely occupied the media focus in the build-up to the weekend - but there was plenty to play for at the DW Stadium.

Rock-bottom Wigan, two points off safety with just one win at home all season, entertained a 14th-placed Baggies team sitting 13 points clear of the drop-zone and looking to cement their mid-table position.

Shane Long started his first game in almost three months as Hodgson rang five changes. Marc-Antoine Fortune made way while Billy Jones, Jerome Thomas, Nicky Shorey and ex-Wigan man Scharner also came in for Peter Odemwingie (calf), Jonas Olsson (suspension) and benched pair Gabriel Tamas and Keith Andrews.

The Latics made two changes, with Franco Di Santo and Shaun Maloney replacing Jordi Gomez and Hugo Rodallega.

With the away end jam-packed with 4,500 Albion fans, including around 2,000 who had arrived on free coach travel provided by the club, you could have been forgiven for mistaking this game for a home fixture judging by the noise emanating from behind Ben Foster's goal.

The visitors - wearing black armbands in memory of club legend Ray Barlow, who passed away this week - were on the receiving end of the game's first attack. In the first minute, Di Santo got on the end of Gary Caldwell's long punt before firing well over from a tight angle.

Albion hit back in the third minute but Long could only stab Brunt's free-kick harmlessly wide at the near post.

The hosts swept straight up-field and Jean Beausejour found Di Santo unmarked with a terrific centre, but the off-balance Argentine volleyed wide.

Wigan continued to ask all the early questions and after James McCarthy beat Brunt to Shorey's pass just outside the Albion box, Foster did well to tip over Di Santo's volley from 15 yards.

From former Blues winger Beausejour's ensuing corner, the ball fell invitingly for Caldwell who scuffed wastefully wide.

The early Latics pressure continued but Emmerson Boyce was also off target from just inside the penalty area from Di Santo's flick-on.

Albion gradually got a foothold in the game and James Morrison created space for a shot before seeing his 18-yard effort clip McArthur and screw wide.

The action-packed opening continued when Thomas collected Long's lay-off and jinked inside Maynor Figueroa, only to screw well wide from 16 yards.

However, Albion had a real let off on 16. Figueroa's awkward left-wing centre squirmed to Boyce at the back stick and the right wing-back muscled his way in front of Shorey to head against the bar from six yards.

The Baggies had a decent chance of their own in the 23rd minute when Gareth McAuley slipped his marker inside the Wigan box and flashed a header wide from Brunt's free-kick.

The half descended into a war of attrition as both defences got on top, but it was Albion who threatened next when, in the 37th minute, McAuley looped a far-post header onto the roof of the Wigan net from Morrison's free-kick.

Moments later, McAuley intervened at the other end by getting in the way of Di Santo's goalbound header from Maloney's left-wing centre.

From Maloney's ensuing flag-kick, McCarthy collected Liam Ridgewell's headed clearance on the edge of the box and rattled the Baggies bar with a ferocious 18-yard effort. The rebound fell awkwardly to Victor Moses, who was thwarted by the alert Foster.

On 44, Albion were relieved to see Antolin Alcaraz's head-down from Beausejour's corner fall the wrong side of Maloney, who was unmarked eight yards out.

Wigan finished the half how they had started it and, in the final minute, the visitors had another let off when Foster and Ridgewell failed to deal with another Beausejour centre. Thankfully, Moses couldn't take advantage and Shorey cleared.

The hosts forced the early running after the break but Maloney failed to seriously test Foster with a 25-yarder which bounced straight into the Albion No.1's arms.

However, Roberto Martinez's men did break the deadlock in the 54th minute. Moses muscled his way past Shorey along the right-hand by-line and his awkward centre cannoned into Jones before falling to McArthur, who stabbed home from two yards.

Albion regrouped and after Thomas was forced wide as he raced onto Long's throughball, the winger saw his effort blocked in the box at point-blank range by Ali Al Habsi.

Moments later, Thomas collected Brunt's pass and jinked his way into the pernalty area before blazing wide from 15 yards.

Albion had finally begun to build up a head of steam and clawed themselves level on 65.

From Brunt's second expert corner delivery in quick succession, Scharner ghosted in front of Alcaraz and had the simple task of heading into the net from three yards.

Albion continued to keep Wigan pegged back but the hosts still looked lively on the counter-attack and the Baggies survived a couple of scrambles inside their penalty area.

The Latics kept pressing for a precious winner and Foster pushed wide an 18-yard opportunist shot from Di Santo.

On 83, Albion broke purposefully and, from Morrison's lay-off, sub Andrews fizzed a terrific drive just wide from 20 yards.

But Wigan's search for a winner became desperate towards the end and they put Albion under the cosh.

From Beausejour's pull-back, sub Mohamed Diame looked set to restore the hosts' lead but he wastefully fired wide from ten yards, hitting team-mate Di Santo in the process.

Diame tried to make amends in stoppage time but shot straight at Foster from distance.

There was one final scare, when the impressive McAuley inadvertently deflected sub Albert Crusat's centre goalwards, but Foster was on his toes and pushed it wide of the near post to earn Albion a point.

WIGAN (3-4-3): Al Habsi; Alcaraz, Caldwell (c), Figueroa (Crusat 89); Boyce, McArthur, McCarthy (Diame 80), Beausejour; Moses, Di Santo, Maloney (McManaman 80). Subs not used: Kirkland (gk), Watson, Gomez, Stam.

ALBION (4-5-1) Foster; Jones, McAuley, Ridgewell, Shorey; Thomas (Dorrans 86), Scharner, Mulumbu (Andrews 80), Morrison, Brunt (c); Long. Subs not used: L Daniels (gk), Fortune, Dawson, Cox, Tamas.

GOALS: WIGAN - McArthur (54). ALBION - Scharner (65).

BOOKINGS: WIGAN - Boyce (unsporting behaviour 70), McManaman (foul 84). ALBION - Scharner (foul 60), Brunt (foul 62), Mulumbu (unsporting behaviour 68), Thomas (unsporting behaviour 70).

REFEREE: M Oliver (Northumberland).



    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.