Crisis club Wigan Athletic are in desperate need of a fillip after they slipped to a narrow 3-2 defeat at home to Gillingham.
John Sheridan’s team has been assembled quickly following a fire sale of their senior players but the new line-up should have got at least a point from this League One fixture after controlling much of the game.
Joe Garner gave Latics an early lead with a first time finish following good work by Viv Solomon-Otabor but the Gills hit back almost immediately through Jordan Graham.
Eight minutes later they added a second as Latics defence stood off and the former Aston Villa youth midfielder beat Jamie Jones from a tight angle.
Trae Coyle added a third for the visitors after the break as Latics’ defence was all at sea but the hosts rallied and pulled a goal back from Kal Naismith following a corner, and they might have had a penalty in added time when Christian Maghoma appeared to handle in the box.
Latics made four changes to the team defeated by Ipswich Town with Tom James and Nathan Cameron making their debuts in defence alongside the returning Danny Fox. There was also a first start and home debut for Alex Perry in midfield.
The hosts started brightly and could have been ahead after only six minutes when Lee Evans found himself free in the centre of the box but his hesitation allowed a Gills defender to block his effort on goal.
Solomon-Otabor then had a glorious opportunity to give Latics the lead but he mis-kicked when free inside the six yard box with the goal at his mercy.
Solomon-Otabor had a big say in Latics’ first goal however, as he used his pace and skill to evade his marker and cross for Garner to finish with a first-time volley past Jack Bonham.
As is often the case, Latics switched off after taking the lead and immediately conceded an equaliser.
They failed to clear several high balls and Graham was allowed to finish with ease from inside the box.
It was not long before the Gills went ahead as Latics’ defence once again switched off as Graham easily turned Cameron and fired low past Jones from a tight angle.
Latics were enjoying plenty of possession but their build-up play was too slow allowing the Gills to get back into formation and defend easily.
The hosts new defensive line-up was hesitant throughout and it was to be their downfall as the visitors increased their lead on 62 minutes. Coyle, was allowed far too much time and space on the edge of the area, before curling his shot into the right corner.
It looked like the game was now over but almost immediately from the kick off Latics reduced the arrears as Naismith poked the ball home from Gary Roberts’ corner kick.
As the minutes ticked down Latics were in almost complete control of possession as the Gills began to sit deeper and defend. Steve Evans usual time-wasting tactics were evident as the Gills players took every opportunity to slow the game down and not allow Latics to build any momentum.
In added time the hosts might have been given a lifeline when substitute Olly Crankshaw’s cross was headed against Maghoma’s arm by Garner, but referee Tom Nield waved away Latics’ appeals and their bad luck both on and off the field continues.