WIGAN // Thomas Sorensen made a series of fine second-half saves to secure another valuable point for Stoke in a below-par clash at the JJB Stadium. Sorensen pulled off a late double-save to deny both Amr Zaki and Antonio Valencia for Wigan and also got down well to gather an effort from Emile Heskey as the home side pushed for the points. Tony Pulis' men offered little in the attacking department besides a 55th-minute header from Ryan Shawcross which sailed into the arms of the Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.
This was a forgettable affair which will be unlikely to feature on any highlights reel of the season next summer. Both sides battled hard, but lacked the finesse and guile to bring any quality to proceedings in Lancashire. Defences dominated in an insipid first period, which saw neither keeper caused too much difficulty. Arguably Pulis and Stoke will be the happier with the result as they maintained the momentum gained from successive home wins and made it seven points gained from the last nine.
Zaki came closest to a goal in the first half, but he shot meekly at Sorensen when he found space. The loss of striker Mamady Sidibe to injury early in the second half limited Stoke even more as a attacking force, and it was Wigan who looked the more likely to find a winner as the game wore on. In the 57th minute, Heskey sent a low header inches wide of Sorensen's left-hand post from a Valencia cross in what was his last act before limping off the pitch to be replaced by Henri Camara.
Camara almost made an immediate impression, glancing a header from a Valencia cross which was tipped behind by Sorensen - and from the resulting corner, Wilson Palacios drove a shot into the goalkeeper's body. Stoke striker Ricardo Fuller was booked on the hour for a rash challenge on Melchiot as tempers threatened to fray, before Zaki directed a close-range header from a Koumas cross well over the bar when well placed.
Sorensen was then called into action to make a fine double save, first denying Palacios from a tight angle and then punching away the second effort from Titus Bramble on the edge of the box. Wigan piled on the pressure in the final minutes, Sorensen making a low save to deny Koumas from long range and Higginbotham getting his body in the way of a drive from Melchiot as Stoke just held on to ensure a share of the spoils.
* PA Sport