After two very good performances against Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers Wigan Athletic were brought back down to earth with a 3-0 defeat at Crewe Alexandra.
The hosts produced an excellent display of passing football and thoroughly deserved to secure the three points against the lacklustre visitors.
Despite wasting several early chances Crewe were ahead on 27 minutes when Luke Offord got between Latics’ central defenders Darnell Johnson and Kal Naismith and headed home from close range. Harry Pickering added a well-worked second on 40 minutes as the hosts took full control.
The three points were effectively sealed on 59 minutes when Michael Mandron tapped home after Jamie Jones had twice saved shots from Crewe players before being beaten.
Latics drop down to 16th in the League One table and the Railwaymen rise above them to 13th place.
New signing Will Keane came into starting 11 to replace captain and leading scorer Joe Garner who suffered a head injury against Doncaster. In his absence Lee Evans captained the team. Crewe had two former Latics players Donervon Daniels and Mandron in their starting line-up.
In windy conditions Latics might have gone ahead early on when Gavin Massey’s blocked tackle flew towards goal but keeper Dave Richards managed to stay alert and tip over the crossbar.
Naismith then had a great chance when the ball fell to him eight-yards out but he lifted his effort high over the crossbar.
Jones then came to Latics’ rescue as he made a fine double save from Perry Ng and Daniels. The former Latic Daniels was injured in the attack and had to be replaced by Omar Beccles.
Mandron then had a chance on 21 minutes when he was free on the edge of the six- yard box but he got his feet in a tangle and Jones was able to smother the ball.
Soon afterwards the hosts were ahead as they were allowed plenty of time to cross into the box and Offord got between Johnson and Naismith to head past Jones.
Crewe were in the ascendancy now as Latics struggled to re-create their recent good form and it was clear they were missing the presence of their captain and leading goalscorer Garner.
Mandron could have added to the hosts lead on 34 minutes when he headed straight at Jones from a good position.
But Crewe increased their advantage just before half time when Pickering drove forward into the box before smashing his shot past Jones.
Latics had been outplayed in the first half and it would require a radical improvement if they were to get anything from the game.
They started the second half more brightly but couldn’t capitalise when keeper Richards failed to punch clear inside his own six-yard box.
But soon the hosts increased their lead despite the best efforts of Jones, who twice saved shots, before Mandron tapped the ball home.
Massey fired wide for Latics on 64 minutes and substitute Olly Crankshaw had a goal disallowed for offside on 70 minutes, but the truth was that Latics rarely posed a goal threat and Crewe ran out very comfortable winners.
It had been an excellent performance by David Artell’s team but John Sheridan’s men were well off the pace. Latics young players looked tired after a hectic early season and several of the senior players, in particular Lee Evans and Gavin Massey, produced disappointing displays.
Latics have gone through so much change in the last few months and it is perhaps not surprising that all the changes have now caught up with the squad.
It has been a difficult transitional period. The squad is still very thin and too reliant on young players from the Academy. It is important that when the new owners do take over that they recruit players with sufficient quality and experience to move the club forward.
Sheridan must now try to regroup and prepare his players for a tough away fixture at Charlton Athletic next week. It is to be hoped that captain Garner will be available for selection and that some of the other senior players show improved commitment in the coming weeks.