It was a slightly disappointing finale for the Whelan family after 23 years in charge of Wigan Athletic as they were defeated 2-1 by Leeds United on Sunday.
Latics had been undefeated at home since February last year but with five attacking players unavailable it was always going to be a difficult task against high-flying Leeds.
Injury-hit Latics battled hard against the new Championship leaders but the lack of quality going forward meant their chances were few and far between as Leeds enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.
Latics went ahead after only six minutes when 18-year-old Chelsea loanee Reece James curled home a superb 30 yard free kick.
But Leeds were soon level as Barry Douglas’ defence splitting pass found Mateusz Klich in space and the Polish midfielder cut the ball back to Pablo Hernandez for an easy tap in.
Leeds started to dominate and Latics were a little lucky to go into the interval level, but the visitors went ahead very early in the second-half following a calamitous mix- up between Cedric Kipre and keeper Christian Walton which allowed Kemar Roofe an easy finish.
The hosts best chance to equalise came in the 85th minute when substitute Callum McManaman skilfully turned his marker but fired his shot agonisingly over the crossbar.
Latics were still without their usual forward line of Gavin Massey, Michael Jacobs and Will Grigg and these absentees were joined on the injury list by Nick Powell and Gary Roberts. Cedric Kipre, Darron Gibson, Kal Naismith and Joe Garner all came into the starting eleven following the defeat at Sheffield United.
Wigan got off to a great start after only six minutes when James curled a superb 30 yard free kick past Bailey Peacock-Farrell for his first goal for the club.
Leeds responded quickly and Douglas’ defence splitting pass found Klich in space and he cut the ball back to Hernandez for an easy finish.
On 23 minutes there was a rousing minute’s applause in appreciation of the 23 years of the Whelan family ownership at Wigan Athletic.
As the half wore on the visitors took control, dominating possession and pressing high on the Latics defence. Adam Forshaw forced a good save from Walton and Latics were lucky to get to the interval on level terms.
But soon after the restart the visitors went in front following a mix-up between Kipre and Walton which allowed Roofe an easy task to score from close range.
Leeds had further chances to increase their lead with Roofe firing wide and Hernandez crashing another effort against the post.
Latics’ best opportunity came on 85 minutes when McManaman superbly turned his marker in the area and fired just over the crossbar.
Leeds had deserved the three points which took them back to the top of the table and I expect them to be involved in the promotion shake-up at the end of the season.
Latics will be rueing their mistakes and hoping for a quick end to their injury crisis. Very few clubs of Latics’ stature could compete against tough opposition without five of their best attacking players.
It may have been disappointing result on the day but nothing can detract from the last 23 years which have been an incredible success story for the Whelan family.
Dave Whelan’s contribution as Wigan Athletic owner should be celebrated as one of the great football success stories. Whelan and his grandson David Sharpe have made Wiganers dreams come true.
To climb through the divisions and to establish themselves in the Premier League for eight years, reach a League Cup Final, win an FA Cup Final and qualify for the Europa League is an almost unbelievable achievement for such a small town club.
It has been a privilege to support Wigan Athletic during this period and I can only thank them profusely for an amazing 23 years.