Latics missed a golden opportunity to pick up three much needed points against a Brighton side that was there for the taking.
We have come to expect some unusual team selections from Uwe Rosler and last night’s was no exception. It left one with a sense of foreboding, even before the game started.
Marc-Antoine Fortune was rested and Rosler brought in Martyn Waghorn at centre forward, leaving Oriel Riera on the bench and Andy Delort out altogether. An even bigger shocker was the absence of Ivan Ramis at centre back, Rosler bringing in James Perch to play there in place of the suspended Leon Barnett. Despite his indifferent recent form, Rob Kiernan kept his place at centre back. Rosler continued with his modified 4-4-2 system, with Don Cowie on the wide right of a central midfield trio of Roger Espinoza, Adam Forshaw and Shaun Maloney. James McClean played wide on the left.
Wigan were playing with a new pairing in the centre of defence and it showed in the first minute when Gary Gardner was gifted a goal. The home team had built up a nice move resulting in a cross from Elliot Bennett which Latics’ defence failed to clear.
Latics gradually started to assert themselves but Brighton remained dangerous in breakaways. Liverpool loanee Joao Teixeira had the freedom of the park in a Wigan midfield lacking steel. That same player was unlucky not to score in the 14th minute when Kazema LuaLua squared the ball across to him in the penalty box. Luckily for Wigan Teixeira’s shot hit the underside of the crossbar and Latics survived.
As Wigan came more into the game Brighton went into their shell, hoping to protect their lead for three points they desperately needed. However, despite having the possession Latics could not seriously test Albion’s 18 year old goalkeeper, Christian Walton.
The second half saw Latics continue to dominate possession, with Brighton massing their defence and making little effort to go forward. However, they could not translate their domination into goals. Walton made saves from a couple of Waghorn efforts and a rasping drive from Forshaw from outside the box. Otherwise there were decent efforts from outside the box from Maloney and Espinoza that went wide.
Despite the substitutions of McManaman for McClean and Riera for Cowie Latics just did not have the finishing to beat a team that had not won for 12 matches. But it was pleasing to see Chris McCann come on near the end for Espinoza following his long absence.
The return of Chris McCann was the highlight of the evening for the Latics. Maybe Ben Watson will make a similar cameo appearance at Bolton?
Waghorn tried hard in the lone centre forward role and had shots on target. Forshaw played with tenacity in a holding midfield role.
The Latics back four were not tested that much by a Brighton side desperately low on confidence. However, even then the home side could quite easily have been two up in the first quarter. Tavernier continues to look vulnerable in defence and a central defensive pairing of Perch and Kiernan hardly inspires confidence. Are Rogne and Caldwell frozen out completely?
Playing Cowie in wide right midfield is a ploy that appears sound. However, Tavernier still continues to look exposed despite Cowie being there to cover him. Tavs just does not look like a Championship quality full back. Better to play him in right midfield and send Cowie back to a midfield holding role or leave him on the bench.
Scott Carson: 6 – largely unemployed.
James Tavernier: 5.5 – strong going forward, out of touch in defence.
James Perch: 5 – a bad start, got better but had little to do.
Rob Kiernan: 5 – continues to receive the backing of the manager despite indifferent performances.
Maynor Figueroa: 6 – solid.
Adam Forshaw: 7 – industrious and committed.
Shaun Maloney: 6 – looked useful in the second half.
Roger Espinoza: 6 – worked hard.
Don Cowie: 5 – poor.
Martyn Waghorn: 7 – worked hard as the target man. Maybe more effective as the second striker?
James McClean: 5 – poor. Withdrawn after 67 minutes.
Callum McManaman: – could not make the difference in that last half hour.
Oriel Riera: – brought on after 75 minutes, but made little impact.
Chris McCann: – a welcome return, coming on after 84 minutes.