Football can be such a cruel game and Wigan Athletic’s manager, players and fans know it only too well after another away defeat at Derby County.
Latics produced one of their best away performances in a very long time at Pride Park. They created numerous chances and looked the most likely to get the three points but with 92 minutes on the clock Graeme Shinnie broke Latics’ hearts with a stunning strike.
Derby move up to 14th in the Championship table while Latics drop to 19th just four points above the relegation zone.
Latics made two changes to the starting line up from Sunday’s 1-0 victory against Nottingham Forest, with Dujon Sterling and Samy Morsy replacing Nathan Byrne and Michael Jacobs.
The hosts made a bright start and David Marshall made a good early save from Tom Lawrence before Antonee Robinson blocked an effort from Jamie Paterson.
But as the minutes progressed the visitors grew into the game and Gavin Massey fired narrowly wide and afterwards curled another effort over the crossbar from the edge of the area.
Captain Morsy had a great opportunity after working his way past a couple of defenders in the area but instead of shooting he pulled the ball back towards Kieffer Moore and the danger was cleared by a defender.
Early in the second half Moore headed wide of the target from a Joe Williams cross.
Marshall denied Derby substitute Chris Martin on 50 minutes but it was Latics who had the better chances to go ahead.
Moore saw his shot from inside the area blocked by Curtis Davies before Williams saw his shot saved by Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos.
Lowe then had the best opportunity of the game when he was clean through on goal but he was denied by Roos.
Massey then fired another effort narrowly wide from 25 yards, before Derby threatened and Marshall saved well from a drive from Lawrence.
But Latics continued to create the better chances and the excellent Massey won the ball in midfield and exchanged passes with Williams before seeing his shot deflected wide. From the corner, Dunkley headed just over the crossbar from a Williams delivery.
Latics lost Charlie Mulgrew to a head injury on 63 minutes and Cedric Kipre slotted into the defence.
The visitors had another great chance when Williams found Lowe who turned well in the area and the striker’s effort was saved by Roos with his legs.
As the match moved towards added time Martin saw a header towards goal put over by his own player Joe Marriott and it appeared as though Latics would get at least a point.
But with 92 minutes on the clock Martin knocked the ball to Shinnie on the edge of the area and the former Aberdeen midfielder struck to condemn Latics to another away defeat.
This was an undeserved defeat for Latics but goals win games and they are struggling for them at the moment.
Strikers Moore, Lowe and Massey have only scored one goal between them and the team as a whole have only scored 10 goals in 13 games. It is obvious were Paul Cook’s team need to improve.
Latics lack a cutting edge in the final third but the manager has been reluctant to give 17-year-old goalscorer Joe Gelhardt a starting place. Gelhardt has already shown his ability with a superb strike as a substitute against Hull City, surely now is the time to give him his chance.
Latics are looking much improved in defence with the steadying influence of Mulgrew and last night’s midfield trio of Morsy, Williams and Lewis MacLeod were impressive. The next stage of Latics’ improvement is to get the strikers firing.