Latics’ abysmal away form continued with a 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. They are now winless in their last 12 away games and they never looked likely to end the run with another poor away performance at Hillsborough.
The visitors rarely threatened to score and Wednesday would have won by a much greater margin if it wasn’t for the heroics of centre backs Cedric Kipre and Chey Dunkley and goalkeeper Jamie Jones.
The hosts went ahead after 62 minutes with a superb curled strike from 25 yards by Steven Fletcher and they should have added to their lead but for some last ditch defending and profligate finishing.
Latics drop a place to 20th in the Championship table while Wednesday remain in 16th.
Paul Cook’s team were unchanged from last week’s victory against Aston Villa and there was optimism that they could improve on their poor away form.
Latics started slowly and the Owls exerted some early pressure with Fletcher seeing a shot deflected wide off Dunkley before the defender denied Adam Reach a goal-scoring opportunity.
Fletcher was causing Latics plenty of problems winning most of the aerial duals and he forced a good save from Jamie Jones with a low drive on 26 minutes.
Latics responded with Josh Windass having an effort from distance deflected wide of the target and from the resulting corner Anthony Pilkington’s flick on found Joe Garner but the striker couldn’t make a proper contact from close range.
Despite Fletcher’s aerial dominance Latics’ defensive partnership of Dunkley and Kipre were getting in some important challenges and Kipre came to the rescue with a last-ditch challenge on Fletcher just before the interval.
In the second-half the Owls gradually took control of the game as Latics looked increasingly off the pace and lacking in creativity.
Barry Bannan was starting to pull the strings for Wednesday and Fletcher continued to pose a threat. Michael Hector blazed over the crossbar from a good position and Reach saw another shot blocked by the excellent Dunkley.
But the hosts were now exerting more pressure and it was perhaps inevitable that Wednesday’s best player would give them the lead.
Fletcher was given plenty of time and space in the Latics half and he curled a superb strike from 25 yards into the bottom corner of the net.
The expected response from Latics didn’t materialise as they continued to toil with little purpose. Wednesday continued to dominate and they should have added to their lead but for some timely blocks from Latics’ back line.
It was a particularly dispiriting performance by Latics after such a positive display last week against Aston Villa. They hardly mustered a shot in the second half at Hillsborough and the manner of the defeat must be worrying for the manager.
Energy levels were low and creativity was almost non-existent. The hapless display was furthered exacerbated by ankle injuries to both Anthony Pilkington and substitute Will Grigg.
Cook quickly needs to address the away form if Latics are to maintain their Championship status and he must be desperately hoping that Nick Powell will be available for selection very soon.