This crucial relegation six pointer ended in 2-1 victory for the visitors Rotherham after a dismal display by Latics.
Despite the need to secure a vital first win in 17 matches the Wigan players showed little of the desire required to overcome the combative Millers. The strangely lacklustre display was not helped by Malky Mackay’s team selection with one central striker James McClean, largely ineffective in a must win fixture.
Wigan never really got going until the dying stages when substitutes Marc-Antoine Fortune and Oriol Riera might have grabbed a point.
Rotherham went ahead on 40 minutes after a calamitous mistake by full back Andrew Taylor which set up Tom Lawrence for a comfortable finish past Scott Carson.
Ben Watson managed to draw Wigan level on 64 minutes when he headed home James McClean’s corner. But within a minute Rotherham got the winner when Alex Revell headed home unchallenged from a free-kick.
Malky only made one change from the team that had lost at Watford with Shaun Maloney coming in for Roger Espinoza. The manager’s decision to go with winger McClean as the lone central striker was to prove costly.
Callum McManaman looked lively in the early stages and caused problems in the Millers box by beating three defenders before testing Adam Collin with a low shot.
Rotherham responded well and could have taken the lead themselves through Emmanuel Ledesma, who forced a save from Scott Carson, before firing wide on the rebound.
Latics had their best chance to take the lead on 22 minutes when Ben Watson followed up McCann’s header in the box from a corner, but fired the ball wide of the goal from twelve yards out.
As the half progressed, Rotherham started to get the upper hand and in the 39th minute, they went close to scoring when Lawrence forced a good save from Carson.
Shortly afterwards the Millers went ahead when Lawrence capitalised on a poor back pass from Andrew Taylor to side foot the ball past Carson.
Rotherham continued their dominance in the second half with Revell firing straight at Carson.
Malky responded by adopting a more attacking formation with substitutes Fortune (53 mins) and Oriol Riera (63 mins).
The changes made a difference and Latics were level in the 63rd minute when Watson’s near post header from McClean’s corner powered past Collin.
But disastrously for Wigan, Rotherham were back in front within a minute through Alex Revell. A free-kick was floated into the box and Revell rose unchallenged to loop his header high over Carson and into the Wigan net.
Marc-Antoine Fortune had a great opportunity to draw Wigan level when he turned his marker in the box but the striker fired high over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
It might have been worse for Wigan ten minutes later when Andrew Taylor cleared the ball off the line after Jordan Bowery’s dangerous low cross.
Oriol Riera almost restored parity late on when his powerful header hit the cross-bar but it just wasn’t to be. The vital three points deservedly went to Rotherham after what had been an abject performance by Latics.
It was Rotherham’s first win in 10 matches and they are now seven points ahead of Latics as we approach the halfway point in the season.
Wigan are in a dire run of form and have not won at home in the Championship since the end of August.
The new manager has suffered a fourth defeat in his five matches in charge. After a good start against Middlesbrough the performances have deteriorated and the prospect of relegation now looms large.
The lack of a cutting edge remains evident and Malky’s ultra cautious team selections have contributed to the problems. Malky has tended to go with the experienced older players but this has meant Latics have often lacked the energy to compete over 90 minutes. A more balanced mix of old and younger players is required if Wigan are to avoid the bleak prospect of relegation.
In his post match interview the Wigan manager acknowledged that the squad is too big and there is a need for changes in the transfer window. In the meantime Wigan need to get some points on the table as a matter of urgency.