Wigan Athletic produced a dominant performance away at Nottingham Forest but once again went down to a set-piece sucker punch and remain bottom of the Championship table.
The visitors dominated possession and created numerous chances before Forest went ahead when Tobias Figueiredo was allowed to head home unchallenged from a corner in the 60th minute.
Latics were awarded a penalty in the 77th minute when substitute Joe Gelhardt was brought down in the box by Alfa Semedo but Josh Windass’ tame penalty was easily saved by Brice Samba. Soon afterwards the visitors had another penalty appeal turned down when former Latic Ben Watson handled Samy Morsy’s effort in the area.
Latics had the opportunities to equalise but their inability to be clinical in the final third enabled Forest to take a fortunate three points.
Forest move up to fifth while Latics remain rooted to the bottom of the Championship table.
Paul Cook made two changes from the team which had drawn 1-1 with Derby County on Boxing Day with Joe Williams and Gavin Massey replacing Anthony Pilkington and Michael Jacobs.
Latics started strongly, enjoying plenty of possession and producing some neat passing sequences. Forest struggled to gain a foothold despite home advantage.
The visitors first chance came on 19 minutes when Antonee Robinson got forward down the left hand side and crossed for Jamal Lowe but the striker couldn’t quite make the vital contact with his head.
Latics went close again on 28 minutes when Robinson’s cross found Williams at the near post and the midfielder’s flick crashed against the post and away to safety.
Forest were offering surprisingly little going forward and it was the visitors who were controlling the game.
As Latics continued to control the first half, they had another good opportunity when Williams right footed shot was well saved by Samba low down at his near post.
Forest’s only chance of the first half came when Lewis Grabban headed narrowly wide from a good position.
All square at the interval but Latics were crying out for a finisher to capitalise on their excellent approach play. Surely young striker Gelhardt would get his chance from the bench? But Cook didn’t make any changes at the interval.
Latics had a glorious opportunity go ahead on 58 minutes when Nathan Byrne broke quickly and outstripped the Forest defence before facing a one-on-one with Samba but the full back showed little conviction and fired wide of the target.
Two minutes later Latics were behind as Figueiredo was allowed to rise unchallenged at the near post and angle his header into the far corner of the net.
Gary Roberts replaced Massey on 62 minutes but still no sign of Gelhardt who was the obvious replacement.
When Gelhardt did finally emerge as a substitute for Lee Evans on 77 minutes he immediately made an impact.
Gelhardt went straight for the jugular dribbling into the area and was brought down by Semedo.
A fantastic opportunity for Latics to draw level but Windass’ poor spot kick was easily saved by Samba low down to his left.
Despite the massive setback Latics continued to be on top with Gelhardt at the centre of their best moves.
The 17-year-old England international’s tight control enabled him to glide into the box past several defenders before setting up Robinson whose final shot was deflected into the side netting.
A few minutes later the ball fell to Morsy on the edge of the area and the midfielder’s goal bound effort was handled by the onrushing Watson. Latics’ players surrounded referee Matt Donohue but the official harshly decided against a second penalty.
Gelhardt continued to threaten but time ran out for Latics and the youngster as they suffered yet another desperately disappointing away defeat.
Latics’ failings are for all to see but manager Cook has consistently failed to address the problems.
The manager’s reluctance to start Gelhardt is now beyond comprehension. The Young England international not only creates chances but he is a prolific finisher and it is obvious to everyone, apart from Cook, that he should play.
Latics defensive organisation has generally improved with Cedric Kipre and Kal Naismith at the centre of defence but the team have consistently conceded from set-pieces and this should have been addressed by the manager.
Windass shouldn’t take penalties. The former Rangers striker has been unable to find his scoring boots while at Latics and his pitiful spot kicks have twice proved very costly for the team. As at Millwall last season Windass was guilty of a desperately poor penalty kick when it mattered so much. He should be taken off penalty duty from now on.
Latics remain rock bottom of the Championship table, they have not won away since April and have now gone 13 games without a victory, few managers would still be in a job with such a terrible record.