Wigan slipped deeper into the relegation mire after a dispiriting 3-1 defeat to Birmingham City at St Andrews. An abysmal first 30 minutes gifted City a two goal lead through Clayton Donaldson, but it could have been so many more as Latics were shambolic.
New loan signing Liam Ridgewell had a particularly torrid time but few of Latics players emerged with much credit from the opening period.
The home team could have been at least five goals to the good before James McClean, who worked tirelessly throughout, produced a wonder goal to drag Wigan back into the game.
A much improved opening to the second half gave Wigan hope, but as they pressed for the equaliser City broke away to shatter the prospect of any comeback when Donaldson completed his hat-trick.
Mackay made four changes from the FA Cup defeat at Bolton. Scott Carson returned in-goal while new loan signing Liam Ridgewell made his debut. Shaun Maloney and Don Cowie came into the starting eleven.
Latics were behind within the first minute after sloppy play by Ridgewell. The former Birmingham defender’s misplaced pass found ex-Latics player David Cotterill. The winger’s deep cross found Donaldson at the far post, and his header evaded Carson and went in off the post.
Wigan were all at sea as wave after wave of Birmingham attacks came in. Latics players seemed incapable of passing to a teammate and no one was prepared to make a tackle to stem the tide.
Cotterill fired a free-kick from the edge of the box wide of Carson’s right hand post. Then an unmarked Donaldson blazed wide with the goal at his mercy.
But in the 14th minute City doubled their lead. Andy Shinnie turned in the box and his deflected shot rebounded along the goal line and Donaldson was on the spot to tap over the line.
It was a desperate opening and Latics looked to be heading for a major drubbing.
The hapless Adam Forshaw looked to have given away a penalty when he appeared to foul Shinnie in the box, but the referee Mick Russell waved away Birmingham’s appeals for a penalty.
Donaldson nearly connected with Paul Caddis’ cross at the far post. The former Crewe and Brentford striker had another chance soon afterwards, rounding Carson but Ridgewell managed to clear off the line.
Don Cowie was withdrawn on 30 minutes and replaced by Ben Watson as Malky Mackay tried to stem the tide.
James McClean was one of the few Latics players showing any endeavour and on 36 minutes the Irishman produced a bolt of hope.
He unleashed a wonder strike from the edge of the area which beat Darren Randolph and went in off the far post.
Latics were amazingly now back in the game despite the disastrous opening 30 minutes. The goal and the introduction of Ben Watson in midfield seemed to give them confidence and they finished the half as the better outfit.
Martyn Waghorn replaced an out-of-touch Ridgewell for the second half as Latics went to a back four.
Mackay’s half-time team talk must have had an impact on the players as Latics were dominant in the opening period of the second half.
McClean was a constant threat and linked up well with Waghorn. McClean forced Randolph into a full stretch save and then from the resulting corner Ivan Ramis headed narrowly over.
Waghorn saw a shot deflected for a corner, and again Ramis headed wide. Maloney produced an excellent 25 yarder that Randolph turned away for another corner.
It seemed only a matter of time before Latics would equalise. But it was Birmingham who broke away and shattered Wigan’s hopes. A cross to the far post found Demarai Gray and the ball fell to Donaldson who bundled the ball over the line for his hat-trick.
The goal proved to be the decider as Latics struggled to make an impact after conceding for a third time.
Mackay’s team have now lost six of their eight games in the Championship and the hoped for transformation since he took over has not materialised
The performance in the first 30 minutes was the worst by any Latics team in a very long time. They did rally at the end of the first and beginning of the second half but the team’s inadequacies are for all to see.
Mackay is making some poor choices, some players should not be in the starting eleven and too many players are not prepared to fight for the shirt.
The exception was James McClean who was Wigan’s outstanding player. He worked tirelessly throughout and produced a great strike to give the team hope. If more players showed his fighting spirit Wigan would not be in the position they are in now.