Clint Dempsey kept his nerve to score the penalty that helped Fulham to a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Wigan on Sunday.
Roy Hodgson’s team fell behind to Emmerson Boyce’s early goal at the DW Stadium, but American midfielder Dempsey won and converted a spot-kick before half-time to ensure Fulham remain one point ahead of the Latics in mid-table.
Cottagers’ boss Hodgson admitted after the match that he hopes to sign a new contract soon.
“It’s something that has been discussed over a period of time. The club have been keen to organise a contract for me to stay longer and I am not averse to the idea,” he said.
“I hope something will be sorted out in the near future, because they are keen to get something done.
“I have been treated magnificently by the Fulham fans and everyone at Fulham. It has been a really good two years. I like the club and the fans and feel it has been reciprocated.”
Hodgson was once again without injured duo Danny Murphy and Andrew Johnson but Damien Duff had recovered from an Achilles strain to start.
There was also a late refereeing change as Mark Clattenburg was replaced by Phil Dowd.
Fulham went close to an early lead as Erik Nevland, who had timed his run to perfection to meet Bobby Zamora’s pass, left Chris Kirkland stranded with a looping header, but it clipped the inside of the post and bounced along the line before being hacked clear.
Wigan responded to that let-off by taking the lead in the 14th minute.
Paul Scharner beat two defenders to meet Erik Edman’s cross and headed the ball back for Boyce, completely unmarked eight yards out, to steer his shot past Mark Schwarzer.
Schwarzer performed heroics two minutes later to keep the visitors in the game, with a stunning save to turn Charles N’Zogbia’s 30-yard strike onto the crossbar.
The Australian keeper had to be alert again moments later to deny Hugo Rodallega, who then saw a free-kick deflected just over.
But, despite struggling to find their rhythm, Fulham snatched an equaliser in the 39th minute. Wigan failed to clear twice and Titus Bramble dived in to foul Dempsey as he prepared to shoot.
Dempsey dusted himself down and drove the penalty past Kirkland for his third league goal of the season.
Kirkland kept the scores level after half-time with a brilliant double-stop to deny Dempsey and Jonathan Greening.
Dempsey’s free-kick was pushed aside by Kirkland, who was still on the turf when Greening pounced on the follow-up, yet he somehow managed to get his hands up in time to turn away the shot.
Schwarzer was still the busier keeper, though, and he kept out Scharner’s curler, then paried a Hendry Thomas header from Rodallega’s corner.
N’Zogbia’s powerful run and shot brought Schwarzer into action again as he tipped the ball to safety.
Scharner’s header tested Scharwzer once more before Dempsey wasted a final chance by shooting wildly over.
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