Wigan Athletic were narrowly defeated 1-0 by West Bromwich Albion in this Third Round FA Cup tie at the Hawthorns.
Latics dominated the early exchanges and could have gone ahead through Will Grigg, Chey Dunkley and Lee Evans but they were left to rue the early misses when Bakary Sako headed the only goal of the game on 31 minutes.
Albion had further opportunities to increase the lead in the second half with Sako twice denied a second goal, first by Latics Man of the Match Jamie Jones and then by Chey Dunkley’s goal line clearance.
Latics might have grabbed an equaliser when Callum McManaman headed over the crossbar from close range but it would have been hard on the Baggies who deservedly progressed to the Fourth Round.
Paul Cook made seven changes to his starting eleven with Jones, Nathan Byrne, Callum Connolly, Leo Da Silva Lopes, McManaman, Josh Windass and Grigg all coming into the team. Cook also had to make a late change when Darron Gibson picked up an injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Evans.
Latics were the dominant team in the early stages and should’ve been ahead after creating several good goalscoring opportunities.
McManaman had a shot deflected wide before he set up Grigg for a one-on-one with Jonathan Bond but the Baggies keeper managed to turn his low effort around the post. From the corner, Dunkley rose high above the defence but agonisingly headed just over the crossbar.
Grigg then set up Evans in a great position on the the edge of the box but the Welsh midfielder nearly hit the corner flag with a wayward shot.
Chris Brunt forced an excellent top corner finger tip save from Jones on the half hour mark and a minute later Latics’ failure to capitalise on their chances proved costly when Brunt crossed for Sako to head home despite the best efforts of Jones who pushed the ball against the crossbar but unfortunately it came down over the line.
Jones made another good save just before half time when he denied Everton loanee defender Mason Holgate.
Jones was having a fine game and soon after the interval he prevented Sako from adding a second goal before Dunkley cleared the Mali international’s follow up off the line.
Reece James replaced Da Silva Lopes on 57 minutes and the Chelsea loanee once again put in another top performance this time from a midfield position. Perhaps if James and Samy Morsy had started Latics might have got a better result at the Hawthorns but understandably the Championship has to be the priority.
Jonathan Leko had a chance to increase the Baggies advantage when he broke clear of Nathan Byrne but he failed to hit the target when one-on-one with Jones.
Windass fired wide of the target on 60 minutes and Latics’ best chance to draw level in the second-half fell to McManaman who headed narrowly over the crossbar at the back post.
McManaman visibly tired in the second half and was substituted for Shaun MacDonald after 77 minutes, but he showed enough in the first half to suggest he should start against Aston Villa next Saturday.
Grigg had a half chance late on when he flicked on substitute Gary Roberts angled cross but Bond saved relatively easily and the 2013 winners went out of this season’s FA Cup.
The Baggies unlike Latics have strength in depth and although making 11 changes they could call on many experienced Premier League players and some up and coming youngsters. Latics meanwhile are struggling with injuries and just don’t have the resources of a recently relegated Premier League outfit.
Despite the narrow defeat Latics can at least take some positives from the game: McManaman and Grigg looked lively particularly in the first half; Dunkley and Kipre are rebuilding their partnership in the centre of defence; Evans was much improved from recent games and Jones was impressive between the sticks.
There is no doubt that they need their injured players back and some new additions in the transfer window but there were at least some signs of improvement at the Hawthorns.