It was another disappointing day for Wigan as they slipped out of the FA Cup 1-0 to local rivals Bolton at the Macron Stadium. A goal by Wanderers debutant forward Zach Clough 14 minutes from time was sufficient to dump the 2013 winners and 2014 semi-finalists out of the competition at the first hurdle.
Latics first half display was simply not good enough as they gave the ball away far too easily with a succession of sloppy passes. Bolton seemed to have an extra player on the pitch at times as they created numerous goal scoring opportunities.
Ali Al Habsi returning to the Wigan team after a long absence produced a catalogue of fine saves following wave after wave of Wanderers attacks.
Wigan improved in the second half following the introduction of substitute Shaun Maloney and the little midfielder was instrumental in all their best moves.
Adam Forshaw had Latics best opportunity when his point-blank header was well saved by Adam Bogdan.
But on 76 minutes the 19-year-old Clough broke through the heart of the Wigan defence and chipped the ball over the advancing Al Habsi to seal Bolton’s progress to the fourth round.
Malky Mackay surprisingly only made one change to his starting line up from the defeat against Sheffield Wednesday with Ali Al Habsi replacing Scott Carson in-goal.
The 3,000 travelling Latics fans were frustrated to see their team pushed back in the early stages as Bolton pressed for a quick breakthrough. Al Habsi had to be at his best in the 10th minute as he came out to smother Liam Feeney’s shot.
They went close again on 20 minutes when David Wheater headed Tim Ream’s cross into the side netting. Soon afterwards Al Habsi was called upon to push away Liam Trotter’s close range header. Then James Perch made a last-ditch tackle as Feeney looked odds on to score.
Latics somehow survived the onslaught and went into the break level.
Mackay must have had some stern words at half time as Wigan emerged re-invigorated by the introduction of substitute Shaun Maloney for Marc-Antione Fortune.
Maloney was a constant threat, twisting, turning and probing the Wanderers defence. In the 52nd minute he set up Chris McCann down the left hand side and the Irishman’s perfect cross was met by Forshaw but his close range header was superbly kept out by Bogdan.
Bolton responded and Al Habsi was at full stretch to save Clough’s shot from the edge of the area.
The game was opening up now with both teams dangerous on the counter attack. James McLean headed over from Andrew Taylor’s cross and Al Habsi did well to save substitute Craig Davies effort.
But with 14 minutes of normal time remaining Wanderers made the breakthrough when Clough picked up Neil Dann’s excellent through ball and chipped the advancing Wigan keeper.
Latics tried to respond and McClean forced a full length save from Bogdan.
As the match moved into injury time Latics last chance to force a replay came from a free- kick but Maloney’s excellent effort was tipped over by Bogdan.
Latics are in a terrible run of form and Malky Mackay has now lost six of his eight games since taking over as manager.
This defeat could have been much heavier if it was not for the heroics of keeper Ali Al Habsi. The manager and players need to take a very close look at themselves.
The first half performance was simply unacceptable and although there was improvement in the second, it appears that many of the players have lost the desire to play for the club.
There needs to be a massive change in attitude within the club. Some of the players may believe they are capable of playing in the Premier League but they will be playing in League One next season if this form continues.
With the transfer window upon us now is the time to prune and restructure the squad and bring in the right type of players. Players who want to wear the shirt and are prepared to fight to maintain Wigan’s Championship status.