It was another frustrating away defeat for Wigan Athletic when they went down 1-0 to Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
Latics started the brighter of the two teams and created several good chances before they succumbed to Boro’s first real attack on 23 minutes with Britt Assombalonga heading home from a Jonny Howson cross.
In a scrappy game neither team displayed much quality with Latics now eschewing their usual passing game for Paul Cook’s hoof ball tactics.
New Boro manager Jonathan Woodgate will be relieved to have seen his team secure all three points for the first time this season.
Cook made two changes to the team which had lost to Leeds United on Saturday with Jamal Lowe and Cedric Kipre coming into the starting line-up.
The Latics manager adopted a 5-2-2-1 formation with Antonee Robinson and Nathan Byrne as wing-backs and three centre-backs of Danny Fox, Kipre and Chey Dunkley. Samy Morsy and Lee Evans anchoring the midfield and Gavin Massey and Lowe supporting the lone striker Kieffer Moore.
Latics were quickly out of the blocks and should have been ahead after only four minutes when Lowe fired his shot straight at Boro keeper Darren Randolph from a good position. Further chances came when Massey fired over the crossbar from the resulting corner and Byrne raced clear following a counter-attack but failed to trouble Randolph from another good position.
But Latics were in shock on 23 minutes when from Boro’s first real attack Howson crossed for Assombalonga to power his header past David Marshall from close range. It could have been two on 27 minutes but Marshall saved well with his feet to deny Assombalonga a second goal.
As the game progressed Latics increasingly relied on the long ball to Moore as their main method of attack. The players had clearly been instructed by Cook to pump the ball long and despite Moore’s best efforts it proved fruitless.
At the beginning of the second half Fox launched three successive long balls forward towards Moore, none of which reached their target. It was desperate stuff as Latics bypassed their midfield with tactics reminiscent of former Middlesbrough and Stoke City manager Tony Pulis.
Latics best attacking player Robinson was surprisingly substituted on 65 minutes for Kal Naismith and Massey was replaced by Bright Enobakhare.
Fox overlapped on 69 minutes and produced a good cross into the penalty area but Latics were unable to capitalise with Byrne and Moore well placed.
A Byrne mistake then set up Lewis Wing on the edge of the Latics area but the Boro midfielder blazed his effort high over the crossbar.
Michael Jacobs replaced Lowe on 77 minutes and soon afterwards the visitors were reduced to ten-men when Moore went down injured, Latics having used all their substitutes.
Latics ten-men huffed and puffed in search of the equaliser, with Kal Naismith moving into the forward line as an emergency striker, but it was all in vain as they slumped to another away defeat.
It was yet another poor away display and Cook must take responsibility for the tactics and the result. Latics no longer play out from the back and keeper Marshall is instructed to kick the ball long at every opportunity, the sole target being Kieffer Moore, it is a limited tactic and opponents quickly know what to expect.
It was another miserable night for all Latics’ fans’, with early chances wasted, sloppy defending, passes going astray and Cook’s dreadful tactics, the prospects are not looking good.