Figueroa the hero as Latics come from behind to clinch dramatic win
WIGAN ATHLETIC 2
BIRMINGHAM CITY 1
Report by Paul Chialton
He doesn't score many but when Maynor Figueroa does find the back of the net it's always an occasion to remember.
Today, making his 100th Premier League start for Wigan Athletic, he scored the most important of his three club goals to date in dramatic fashion.
Taking control on the edge of the area deep into stoppage time the Honduran took aim with his right foot and fired into the top corner, leaving Ben Foster helpless and securing three precious points for Latics.
The Honduran had played a big role going forward throughout the game and came close to scoring half-an-hour earlier, reacting quickest to a loose ball inside the area after Tom Cleverley's miscued shot and hammering low only to be denied by a brilliant Foster save.
But when his moment arrived again he made no mistake and made sure his team finally got the rewards they deserved for one of the best home performances of the season.
Despite going behind early on through a Liam Ridgewell goal Roberto Martinez's men never gave up on their principles and didn't panic, instead remaining patient and gradually growing in confidence thanks to their controlled possession play.
An equaliser was coming and it was a fine move that brought it: Ben Watson's beautifully weighted through ball just reached Emmerson Boyce at the by-line and the full-back's cross was palmed into Cleverley's feet to tap home from close range.
Latics never looked back and for the next 70 minutes there was only one side in the game, despite the visitors hitting the bar on the stroke of half-time with a Sebastian Larsson free-kick.
That was the closest Birmingham came to troubling Ali Al Habsi as their midfield became over-run and defence pushed to breaking point thanks to the invention and determination of Latics' attacking poise.
The team-sheet at the start of the day raised a few eyebrows as the Gaffer made three change to the side that had performed so well at Eastlands a couple of weeks ago, but it proved to be a master-stroke from Martinez with Alex McLeish's team unable to find the answers to the questions asked of them.
Charles N'Zogbia was at his most dangerous once again, piercing the away defence and fluidly mixing with Cleverley and Victor Moses behind Franco Di Santo, fed with ammunition by the creativity of Ben Watson and James McCarthy in the middle of the park.
Stirred by Latics' domination the home fans were in fine voice and that volume was cranked up further with the double introduction of Conor Sammon and Hugo Rodallega on the hour-mark to add a new dimension to the attack.
It's impressive how quickly Sammon has adapted to life in the Premier League and how great his understanding is with those around him after a short time at the club, and once again he proved a big threat for Latics.
15 minutes before the end the Irish forward found space inside the area and looked certain to cap his home debut with his first goal but was denied by Roger Johnson's diving block, James McCarthy was then unlucky not to convert the follow-up as the home side pushed for the winner that seemed inevitable.
It came, eventually, and in typical Wigan Athletic style it came dramatically, just as it had against Burnley last season at the DW Stadium almost a year ago to the day on March 20th when Hugo Rodallega struck in the 90th minute.
Although the hero was different this time round the timing was the same, the outcome was the same and hopefully the win will once again inspire Latics to Premier League survival.
Latics: Al Habsi; Boyce, G. Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa; Watson, McCarthy, Cleverley, Moses (Sammon, 64), N'Zogbia (Diame, 93); Di Santo (Rodallega, 64)
Subs: Pollitt, Gohouri, Gomez, Stam
Birmingham: Foster; Carr, Johnson, Jiranek (Davies, 15), Ridgewell; Larsson, Ferguson, Gardner, Mutch (Martins, 64) Beausejour (Bentley, 59); Jerome
Subs: Doyle, Murphy, Phillips, Parnaby