It was a surreal afternoon at the DW Stadium as Wigan Athletic celebrated the League One title by losing 4-1 to play-off chasing Barnsley.
Latics were assured of the trophy prior to kick off and looked to be dominant on the pitch when they took a 10th minute through the league’s Golden Boot winner Will Grigg. But the Tykes drew level through Sam Winnall’s 33rd minute penalty.
The match turned in Barnsley’s favour on 44 minutes when Winnall added a second after some sloppy play by the home team.
Reserve keeper Lee Nicholls making his first league start in goal in place of Jussi Jaaskelainen then failed to keep out Conor Hourihane’s effort from the edge of the area on 56 minutes and was too easily beaten by Josh Brownhill’s free-kick from 30-yards on 74 minutes.
Chris McCann showed his frustration by kicking out at Adam Hamill in added time and was dismissed.
Barnsley celebrated qualifying for the play-offs at full time but it was Latics who celebrated with the League One Trophy and are certain to be playing Championship football next season.
Gary Caldwell made three changes from the team which won promotion at Blackpool last Saturday, with Jason Pearce, Yanic Wildschut and Lee Nicholls replacing Sam Morsy, Reece Wabara and Jussi Jaaskelainen.
The DW Stadium looked splendid under blue skies with a big crowd of 18,730 providing a great atmosphere.
Latics opened strongly and were looking likely to score from the kick off with Yanic Wildschut threatening down the left hand side.
Latics went ahead on 10 minutes through Will Grigg after good work by Wildschut.
The flying Dutchman beat his marker down the left and pinged in a cross, the ball hit a Barnsley defender’s hand and then fell to Grigg who tapped home his 25th league goal of the season and 28th overall.
It looked as though Latics would go on to add further goals but some complacency crept into the home team’s game and the visitors drew level from the penalty spot.
Latics gave the ball away needlessly on the edge of the area and as Ashley Fletcher broke into the area he was brought down by Stephen Warnock. Sam Winnall converted the penalty kick to draw the Tykes level.
The visitors had now got a foothold and pressed forward through Winnall, who was denied by Nicholls from close range on 42 minutes.
Barnsley were ahead on 44 minutes when Latics once again failed in defence to cut out the danger.
Nicholls saved from Lloyd Isgrove but only managed to parry the ball back into the danger zone and Winnall was on hand to score from close range.
Early in the second half Latics did have opportunities to draw level through substitute Ryan Colclough. First his goal bound effort was blocked by a defender in the area and later when he was cleverly played through by Grigg, his strike was was ruled out for offside.
However, it was Barnsley who scored next to increase their lead. Conor Hourihane shot from the edge of the area and although Nicholls appeared to have the effort covered the ball sneaked inside the post.
With around 15 minutes remaining the Tykes completed a convincing victory through Preston North End loanee Josh Brownhill. The midfielder hit his free-kick from 30-yards-out and the Latics reserve keeper should probably done better.
Gary Caldwell will have learned some useful lessons about his players during this final league one game. It should help his planning for next season and for the hard decisions he will have to make about who is in next season’s Championship squad.
Despite defeat on the day, Latics were in jubilant mood after the game as they celebrated with the League One trophy in front of the joyous home supporters.
The fans and players then proceeded to paint the town centre blue and white and their celebrations went on into the early hours of Monday morning.