- Following a fifth late payment of wages Wigan Athletic’s depleted first team played out a goalless draw with Rotherham United at the DW Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday.
- Latics had eight academy players taking the pitch during the game and handed league debuts to 21-year-old goalkeeper Sam Tickle and Anthony Scully.
- With several players playing out of position the hosts struggled for early cohesion but were able to keep the scores level.
- There were some promising displays by Latics Academy graduates with third choice goalkeeper Tickle particularly impressive.
- Latics finish rock bottom of the table after an horrendous season characterised by the damaging decisions of Phoenix 2021. Rotherham finish in 19th place.
Shaun Maloney made six changes to his team and a number of his starting XI were, to their credit, playing without receiving their April salaries.
Rotherham had the first attempt at goal after eight minutes as Tariqe Fosu fired a low strike at which Tickle did well to push away to safety.
Latics first opportunity came after 18 minutes as James McClean crossed for Thelo Aasgaard, but his effort from 10 yards out was right at the Rotherham keeper Viktor Johansson.
The previously rarely seen Scully was looking a threat for the Tics but it was the visitors who next went close.
Tom Pearce gave the ball away in a dangerous area, but Jordan Hugill’s effort was blocked and then well saved by Tickle.
Aasgaard had the first effort of the second half six minutes after the break as he hit a shot from 25 yards, but his effort was well blocked.
At the other end Hugill dragged his shot wide before Tickle once again did well to palm a ball out from under his own crossbar following a dangerous cross from the left which looked like it was going in.
Young striker Chris Sze replaced Steven Caulker on the hour mark for his league debut and he was close to putting Callum Lang through on goal.
Tickle continued to impress in Latics’ goal and on 65 minutes as palmed away Domingos Quina’s 25-yard free-kick before Aasgaard had Latics’ best chance so far as he met Lang’s deep cross with a header, but unfortunately it was straight at Johansson.
Abdi Sharif replaced Scully on 69 minutes for his full Latics debut and he was straight into the action as he laid the ball off for Pearce to find McClean with a cross, but he fired over.
Rekik was then close to getting his first Latics goal as his header at the back post following a Lang free-kick was tipped wide before Aasgaard was involved again as his 30-yard curling effort was again saved by Johansson.
From the resulting corner, the ball found its way to Christ Tiehi outside the area, but his effort just missed the top corner. Lang then tried his luck from 30 yards, but again Johansson saved comfortably.
Charlie Hughes then had a shot saved from 25 yards before another debutant, wing-back Youssef Chentouf replaced Rekik on 88 minutes for his first Latics appearance and Scott Smith replaced Christ Tiehi.
The game ended goalless with both sides having to settle for a point. Rotherham will remain in the Championship for next season while Latics will drop back to League One after some disastrous off-the-field mistakes by Phoenix 2021.
This was an emotional end to a tragic season for Latics. Chairman Talal Al Hammad and owner Abdulrahman Al Jasmi must take responsibility for the shambolic decisions which have contributed to the relegation.
Several players coming to the end of their contracts understandably decided not to play against Rotherham, and at the time of going to press (Wednesday am) they have still not been paid.
The failure to pay the players on time for a fifth occasion could lead to further action from the EFL. A possible points deduction that could be damaging for next season’s campaign.
The players, management and fans have been treated disgracefully this season and the owners must now honour their commitments or sell up.
These are extremely challenging times for Wigan Athletic and everyone associated with the club will be hoping for a speedy resolution so that the club can move forward.
Final Championship Table
Post match comments
Speaking afterwards Maloney gave special credit to all of the young Academy prospects – in addition to several senior players who commendably took the field without receiving pay.
“I thought Rotherham were slightly better than us in the first half, but in the second half, I loved how the team played,” he said.
“In the second half, I really liked our performance – I just wish we would’ve taken one of our chances and won the game for everyone.
“During what’s been a difficult few days, there have been some big positives with the younger players.
“Some of the younger players came on and made a big difference – (including Abdi Sharif and Chris Sze). I loved what Sam Tickle produced today.
“On top of that, what some of the senior players have done today – I’ll be forever grateful to them.
“We had five players in that team who hadn’t been paid, so massive credit has to go to them.
“I have to also mention that this has happened before, and we played Watford and Coventry City with senior players who weren’t here today doing the exact same.
“Let’s not forget them – they’ve been outstanding at times, and what that group of players have given me, my staff and the supporters – I’ll never forget.”
While it has undoubtedly been a tough season for everyone connected with the Football Club, one consistent theme throughout the 2022/23 campaign has been the outstanding support of the Latics faithful from the stands.
Maloney expressed his gratitude towards the supporters for their backing since he returned to the DW Stadium, describing them as a ‘credit to the Football Club’.
“It was a really positive day for them,” he said.
“They are a huge credit to the Football Club – and it’s an honour to be their Manager. It’s been an up and down three months – and they’ve been amazing for me.
“I cannot thank the fans enough, and I hear every time they sing. I want to clap them every time, but I have to concentrate on the game.
“It means the world to me, and I work extremely hard to try and make them happy. I just crave the stability of this Club for them.”