A Tom Ince penalty in the 24th minute was enough to win the points for Blackpool, as Wigan’s poor away form continued. The record now reads won one, lost four on the road. The inaccuracy of Latics’ finishing in the match was reflected in the stats revealing they had 20 shots on goal, with only one on target.
A well organized Blackpool, with a tight and rugged defence, proved strong opposition for Latics. Carson’s reckless intervention allowed Gosling to go to ground to give the Seasiders a lead that Wigan were unable to overcome. The big Latics goalkeeper was lucky not to receive a red card.
Latics made two changes from their lineup against Blackburn, bringing in Emmerson Boyce for Ryan Shotton and Callum McManaman for Jean Beausejour. Nick Powell was named ahead of Grant Holt and Marc Antoine Fortune at centre forward.
Apart from the penalty there were few clear cut goal opportunities for either side until the last 15 minutes when the action started.
Powell had an early chance for Wigan but headed wide at point blank range. Ben Watson and James McArthur were winning the midfield battle, but there was little penetration in Wigan’s play. Jordi Gomez was unable to put through incisive passes to unlock a strong defence and the wingers McManaman and McClean could not provide quality crosses into the penalty box.
Coyle decided a more direct approach was needed after 58 minutes when he brought on Holt and Fortune for Powell and Gomez. Given the two big central strikers’ recent injury problems it was a risky choice to bring them both on so early. With two attacking wingers and two central strikers it was akin to an old 4-2-4 formation. Coyle added to the risk factor by bringing on Beausejour for McManaman just 7 minutes later.
In those hectic final 15 minutes the game could have gone either way. The changes meant that Latics had more attacking thrust, but the defence was vulnerable to counter-attacks. Big Jamaican forward Ricardo Fuller burst through for Blackpool but chipped over the bar. Leon Barnett and Grant Holt soon after had headers that hit the woodwork. Barnett had a powerful shot well saved by Gilkes and Boyce had an effort kicked off the line.
In the final minutes Wigan’s defence was repeatedly exposed, but poor finishing and good goalkeeping by Carson kept Blackpool out.
James McClean capped a frustrating display by getting a straight red card in the dying moments. The Irishman had been booked for bad tackle in the first half, berating the referee for his decision. This time he felt that the corpulent Blackpool central defender Gary MacKenzie had stamped on him. Then McClean lost his self control and it took a considerable effort from teammates to hold him back from confronting the opposition and referee. Why McClean actually got sent off remains a mystery – he certainly had not retaliated in any serious way against MacKenzie.
Latics played with spirit in the final period, even if the quality of their football was not top notch. If one of those chances had gone in they might well have gone on to win the game.
Ben Watson and James McArthur continue to play well together in central midfield, although in this game they did not get as far forward as one would have liked. Although Thomas Rogne could not keep up the high level of recent performances the defence continues to look more solid. Barnett is a dominant presence and James Perch has helped provide more defensive stability at left back, if limited in his attacking abilities.
Blackpool are one of the better sides in the division and Latics certainly matched them. A draw would way have been a fair result, although the Seasiders could have walked away with a wider victory had they taken their chances on the counter attack.
Without Shaun Maloney Latics lack someone who can put through a defence-splitting pass. Gomez did not have the best of days, but his record on providing assists has always been found wanting. Maloney is also missed in the taking of free kicks. Latics had set piece opportunities in good positions for shots on goal, but never looked like converting them.
Coyle rode his luck in putting on all three substitutes with 25 minutes remaining. He was lucky there were no injuries. His risk of changing to 4-2-4 can be praised as bold or condemned as foolhardy. It helped Latics create more goalscoring opportunities, but left the defence badly exposed.
Scott Carson: 7 – despite the penalty he was once again one of the better performers.
Emmerson Boyce: 6 – unlucky with his effort in the closing minutes. Worked hard, if not at his best.
Thomas Rogne: 5 – the young central defender had a bit of an off day. He made errors in his passing and did not look on top of his game.
Leon Barnett: 8 – a powerhouse in defence and dangerous in the opposition box. He made an amazing and brave goal line clearance to deny Blackpool near the end.
James Perch: 6 – solid.
Ben Watson: 7 – continues to look a class act in this division. Good in tacking and intercepting, intelligent with his passing.
James McArthur: 8 – forms an excellent midfield duo with Watson. A complete midfield player who runs himself into the ground for his team.
Jordi Gomez: 5 – poor. Taken off after 58 minutes.
Callum McManaman: 5 – unable to trouble the Blackpool defence. Taken off after 65 minutes.
Nick Powell: 5 – ineffective. Taken off after 58 minutes.
James McClean: 5 – worked hard, but so often ran into blind alleys. Needs to control his temperament.
Grant Holt: – made a difference when he came on. Dangerous in the box.
Marc Antoine Fortune: – looked rusty. Ineffective.
Jean Beausejour: – could not impose himself on the game.