MIDDLESBROUGH boss Aitor Karanka admitted he felt deep sympathy for Rhys Williams after he suffered a freak Achilles injury that could rule him out of a second successive World Cup.
The Australian defender – part of the Socceroo squad who will compete at the finals in Brazil – was carried off on a stretcher in pain and taken to hospital after twisting his body sharply just before the break in Boro’s goalless draw with Wigan at the Riverside.
Williams had been linked with a move to Premier League side Swansea City.
“They will check him and we will know more soon but it looks like a very serious injury for Rhys,” said the Spanish head coach.
“His face and the doctor’s face were not good. He was crying and I feel sympathy for him.
“It is very bad injury for him. I hope he will recover as soon as possible because he had a big chance to play in the World Cup so that will be a big incentive for him.
“All our feelings are with him, mine, the team’s, the staff’s. He will get all the support we can give him.
“The game was not a good one for us. It was difficult as Wigan are a good team.”
Williams missed the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 after suffering a serious pelvic injury.
The game was far from a classic with few chances at either end and Karanka confessed Boro did not deserve to win.
“We did not play with personality and we did not do enough to win the game,” he said. “But when you cannot win a game it is important that you do not lose it.”
Middlesbrough kept a fourth straight clean sheet at home for the first time in over a decade but there was little else to cheer in a drab goalless draw with Wigan at the Riverside.
Boro had the best of the few chances on offer but were again indebted to on-loan shot-stopper Shay Given for a precious point after the Irishman pulled off a superb one-handed second-half save.
Wigan showed their teeth first, on seven minutes, as Ben Watson curled to the back post where Chris McCann’s effort was charged down.
Boro went close on 18 minutes as they won a free-kick 25 yards out but Emmanuel Ledesma’s well-struck waist-high effort brought a good save at the near post.
The hosts almost carved out the opener on 28 minutes as Grant Leadbitter pushed out to Friend on the left and he skipped past a challenge before sending Mustapha Carayol scything in to the edge of the box to send a low shot whistling wide.
Boro had another sight of goal on 33 minutes as a Ledesma corner was flicked on by Daniel Ayala for Carayol to try a diving header that was just turned wide off defender James Perch.
Just before the whistle Boro suffered a blow when Williams went down heavily and was stretchered off.
After a scrappy start to the second half, Boro missed a glorious chance to grab the opener. Carayol broke down the left on 64 minutes to send Ledesma into the box and he cut it back to Curtis Main but his shot was scooped over from eight yards out.
Then, after a spell of heavy pressure, Carayol cut inside to crack in a low shot that cannoned back off the shins of Perch.
Wigan broke forward and threatened as James McClean darted forward but fired over from 20 yards.
But Wigan could have snatched the lead on 76 minutes as a quick break found Stephen Crainey 20 yards out and he smashed in a stinging shot that took a slight deflection.
It could not fool Given, who made a superb one-handed reflex save.
Then they pressed again as Powell stole in front of defender Ben Gibson onto a Jean Beausejour cross to power a header over the bar.
Meanwhile, striker Lukas Jutkiewicz has completed a loan move to Bolton until the end of the season. He was a second-half sub in the 2-1 defeat for the Trotters at QPR.