Following the herculean performance at the Etihad on Sunday, a hung-over Latics team struggled to beat a team low on flair. Wigan scraped out a win in controversial circumstances, the winner coming in the 88th minute from a superbly executed Jordi Gomez penalty.
Latics lineup was close to what had been expected, but Uwe Rosler decided not to rest his trusted defenders James Perch and Emmerson Boyce. They lined up together with Leon Barnett and Jean Beausejour in a flat back four. Ryan Tunnicliffe took over Chris McCann’s normal position on the left of central midfield, with James McArthur in centre-right and Jordi Gomez playing the linkman role. Martyn Waghorn and James McClean played wide up front with Nicky Maynard in the centre forward position.
The game started scrappily and Wigan struggled to get any coherency to their play. The visitors had clearly done their homework and used their own high pressing tactic to disrupt the build-up of Latics moves from the back. James McClean provided some much needed energy for lethargic Latics and got behind the big full back Buxton, only to squander a good opportunity to blazing the ball across the goal.
Wednesday were proving to be a hard nut to crack – a big physical team who had clearly come to claim at least a point. But their finishing left much to be desired and they rarely threatened Ali Al-Habsi until the 37th minute when they won a penalty. Maghoma was put through by Best to be felled by the Omani as he went through on goal. It was a clear penalty and many of us in the crowd were expecting a red card for the goalkeeper. To the relief of the Latics faithful the big Omani was to receive only a yellow and made a great save from Leon Best’s penalty.
Latics perked up a little after the penalty save and the largely anonymous Tunnicliffe warmed goalkeeper Martinez’s hands with a shot from 25 yards. Then Boyce got in a downward header, but it was saved by ‘keeper Martinez.
Latics limped into half time, looking like they needed a new infusion of players to bring them to life. The movement that typifies Rosler’s style of football was hardly evident and changes were clearly needed. It was disconcerting to see Latics resort to using long balls in their frustration of not getting quality possession.
Those changes came in the 54th minute when Rosler brought on Callum McManaman for an ineffective Waghorn and Nick Powell for the tiring McArthur. This put some extra life into Latics play and Powell soon put McClean through on the left, but his disappointing cross went into Martinez’s hands. Apart from that there was a lack of quality in their build-up as Wednesday held firm. The visitors’ physical approach and the laxness of referee Andy Haines frustrated the home crowd.
Marc-Antoine Fortune replaced McClean after 72 minutes and his physical approach helped liven things up. Latics were now playing a 4-4-2 formation with McManaman and Powell playing wide and Fortune and Maynard in the middle. In the 79th minute one of the few moves of quality saw Fortune put McManaman through on the right with a clear run on goal. With a calmer head the winger might have scored but he blazed his low shot past the far post.
Latics continued to press and were rewarded with a hotly disputed penalty after Perch had gone down after Lavery’s challenge. Gomez put away the penalty and Latics somehow had salvaged three points.
Rosler acknowledged after the game that “Yes, we didn’t play our best and yes, we can definitely do better, but in terms of guts and belief I can’t really ask for any more from my players”.
It is the ability of Rosler’s sides to show that kind of resilience that makes Latics promotion hopefuls. The football was reminiscent of that of the dark days under Owen Coyle, but the usual style of play had broken down and Latics were left to take a more pragmatic approach.
The defence was strong throughout and limited Wednesday’s goal scoring opportunities to a minimum.
Chris McCann was sorely missed and his replacement, Tunniicliffe, could not get to grips with the game. This led to the midfield being disjointed despite the usual hard work of McArthur and Gomez.
Rosler has lost the option of choosing his preferred midfield trio of Watson, McArthur and McCann.Moreover Roger Espinoza was not even on the bench.
Ali Al-Habsi: 7 – lucky not to get sent off, but made a great penalty save and otherwise looked comfortable.
James Perch: 7 – once again his run from defence created a goal. He has added another dimension to his game. Solid as ever in defence.
Leon Barnett: 7 – superb in the air and formed a strong central defensive partnership with Boyce.
Emmerson Boyce: 7 – continues to perform consistently well.
Jean Beausejour: 7 – did not get forward as much as usual, but excellent in defence.
James McArthur: 6 – as busy and involved as ever. Taken off after 54 minutes.
Jordi Gomez: 6 – worked hard and his penalty won the game for his team.
Ryan Tunnicliffe: 4 – looked disorientated. Surely a much better player than he looked in this game.
Martyn Waghorn: 5- lacked incisive thrust. Playing wide on the right and being naturally left footed he invariably passed the ball inside.
Nicky Maynard: 5 – struggled throughout against Wednesday’s giant central defenders.
James McClean: 6 – promised but did not deliver.
Nick Powell: – good to see him back, but clearly not yet match fit.
Callum McManaman: – received little protection from a lenient referee. Looked dangerous on occasions.
Marc-Antoine Fortune: – added more muscle up front and almost laid on a goal for McManaman.