Latics made seven changes against Birmingham City and they should have come away with all three points after creating the better chances in this 1-1 draw at St Andrew’s.
The hosts went ahead after only two minutes when acting Latics’ captain Jonas Olsson was slow to react and Lukas Jutkiewicz scored through the legs of keeper Jamie Jones.
But despite the setback Latics went on to be the better team with Joe Garner’s glancing header hitting the post and later seeing a great chance blocked on the line by Wes Harding.
The Blues rode their luck but were eventually undone when Nick Powell’s strike from 25-yards was deflected past Lee Camp for the equaliser.
The second half produced few clear cut chances but Garner might have done better from a good position when he turned the ball narrowly wide and 16-year-old substitute Joe Gelhardt produced an incisive run but shot tamely at Camp.
Latics are currently in 18th place in the table and could finish as high as 17th if they win their last game against Millwall and other results go their way. Birmingham hold 17th spot and are two points above Latics.
Cook had made seven changes from the 2-0 victory over Preston North End with keeper Jamie Jones replacing Christian Walton, and Cedric Kipre coming back into defence alongside Jonas Olsson, with Darron Gibson in midfield, and an upfront three of Josh Windass, Powell and Joe Garner.
Danny Fox, Samy Morsy, Reece James, Gavin Massey, and Leon Clarke were all rested on the day.
Latics made the worst possible start and went behind after only two minutes when Olsson’s hesitation in defence allowed Jutkiewicz to finish past Jones.
The signs looked ominous when Che Adams had a chance to double Birmingham’s lead after intercepting a poor Windass back-pass but he fired straight at Jones.
But Latics worked themselves into the game and went close on 13 minutes when Nathan Byrne crossed from the right for Garner who headed against the post from close range. From the rebound he looked to be in a good position to equalise and was brought down, but referee Stephen Martin turned down Latics’ appeals.
Soon afterwards Powell forced a good save from Camp from 25-yards as the visitors asserted their dominance.
Moments later Powell was played in by Garner and should have done better with only the keeper to beat but Camp spread himself to deny the equaliser.
Latics were in control now and Antonee Robinson’s cross from the left was fired wide of the target by Garner.
Olsson had a chance from Evans’ free-kick at the back post but he couldn’t finish although he appeared to be fouled by Camp when jumping for the ball.
Garner then wasted a glorious opportunity for the leveller when a loose ball fell to him in the area. After good composure to dummy the keeper he shot tamely and was denied by Harding on the Birmingham goal line.
But Latics did manage to deservedly draw level on the stroke of half time when Robinson cut the ball back for Powell to strike from 25-yards and the ball went in via a deflection.
All level at half time but Latics were in the ascendancy and the prospect of another away three points looked likely.
The manager made a double change at the interval with Kal Naismith and Gelhardt replacing Kipre and Windass.
Gelhardt burst onto the scene with the first effort of the half, beating several players but unfortunately shooting tamely at Camp.
Powell and Robinson once again linked up well to find Garner in the area, and it looked as if the striker would grab the winner but he saw his effort go narrowly wide of Camp’s left-hand post.
Latics continued to look the more likely to score but couldn’t make the breakthrough and the hosts looked relatively content to play out a draw with the season coming to end next week.
Cook had used the match to take a look at his squad players and youngsters and it had provided a few pointers for next season.
The positives had been a pleasing away performance and second half Championship debuts for England U17 youth internationals Gelhardt and Jensen Weir plus solid displays by Robinson and substitute Naismith. Robinson would certainly be an asset next season if Latics can retain his services from Everton.
Some other players might be playing their last games for Latics. Olsson was at fault for the Birmingham goal and I see little point in retaining the 36-year-old for next season. Gibson was ineffective in midfield and Windass had another poor game before being substituted at half time.
Nick Powell now looks likely to leave in the summer and the club must recruit a striker who can hit 15 plus goals in the Championship if they are to make progress next season.
Callum Lang should be given a chance in pre-season but it would be a big jump for the young striker to move from League 2 to the Championship and the new owners IEC must show their commitment by investing in the squad in the summer.
I wondered if we could bring Lang back from Oldham now that they have nothing left to play for and give him a chance next week against Millwall. It would give us an idea of his progression, and since the Millwall game doesn’t count for anything it would be a good chance to give him a run-out for us.
An interesting thought – I suppose it would depend on the agreement we have with Oldham.