Nathan Ellington bagged another League Cup brace as Wigan made Premiership Fulham pay for not taking this assignment seriously.
The Second Division leaders eased into the last eight of the competition for the first time in their history with club-record signing Ellington scoring the goals that set up a quarter final showdown with Blackburn Rovers at the JJB Stadium for Paul Jewell’s men. Fulham, with their minds seemingly more focused on overturning their first leg deficit in the UEFA Cup against Hertha Berlin, were well below the standards Jean Tigana has set and barely deserved their consolation goal scored by substitute Luis Boa Morte with five minutes remaining.
Just two starters remained from Fulham’s league game against Blackburn last weekend and Wigan were in control from the outset – confident of adding a third top flight scalp to Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion, who have already been humbled by Paul Jewell’s men this season. The hosts had the better of the early exchanges and it was no surprise when they took the lead after twenty minutes. It would have been a relief for Ellington, a £750,000 arrival from Bristol Rovers last season, who chose the big stage to score his first goal in ten games.
The strong striker seized on a backheel from Neil Roberts and sped away from Zat Knight before slipping a side-footed finish confidently past Maik Taylor. Roberts and Ellington posed problems for Knight and Abdes Ouaddoh all evening – and a comedy of errors at the back saw Wigan double their lead just seven minutes later. Knight and Ouaddoh proved unable to clear a punt forward from Jason de Vos and Ellington fired a left-footed volley beyond a helpless Taylor.
The home side could easily have extended their lead. Fulham’s Northern Irish international goalkeeper did well to save a Roberts effort from 20 yards and, despite Tigana introducing Sean Davis and Boa Morte at half time, the pattern of play remained largely the same after the interval. Ellington was only denied a hat-trick by an alert piece of defending from Pierre Wome, who managed to take the sting of the lively striker’s shot.
Davis dismally lifted a shot over midway through the second half when it looked simpler to score from six yards out and, even after Boa Morte had halved Fulham’s arrears with four minutes to play, the top flight side failed to impose themselves on proceedings.
WIGAN ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Filan; Eaden, De Vos, Jackson, McMillan; Green (Mitchell 76), Dinning, Jarrett, Kennedy; Roberts (Flynn 90), Ellington. Subs (not used:) Beasant, Teale, Breckin.
GOALS: Ellington (20, 27).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Leacock, Wome, Ouaddoh, Knight (Davis 45); Djetou, Clark, Collins, Inamoto; Stolcers, Sava (Boa Morte 45). Subs (not used): Herrera, Hudson, Goldbaek.
BOOKED: Ouaddoh, Djetou.
GOALS: Boa Morte (86).
REFEREE: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).