Wigan Athletic’s makeshift line-up narrowly lost 3-2 to Northampton Town at the DW Stadium.
The hosts were without seven first team players due to injury and they struggled to compete in the first half against the physically stronger visitors.
Former Wigan youth player Ryan Watson put Northampton ahead from close range on 13 minutes after Latics’ defence had failed to clear their lines.
The visitors increased their lead on 21 minutes when Sam Hoskins finished confidently from 12-yards.
It looked as though Latics inexperienced line-up might be in for a hiding but they rallied in the second half and pulled a goal back from Joe Garner’s penalty kick.
The visitors soon responded though and substitute Caleb Chukwuemeka restored their two goal advantage on 66 minutes.
Latics kept persevering and Tom James reduced the deficit on 75 minutes with a fine header from Tom Pearce’s cross.
The hosts might have drawn level when substitute Kyle Joseph turned superbly in the six-yard box before firing against the post but it was just not to be.
Latics drop to 21st place in the League One table while Northampton move up to 18th spot.
Injury-hit Latics were without Lee Evans, Gavin Massey, Kal Naismith, Curtis Tilt, Darnell Johnson, Viv Solomon-Otabor and Will Keane for the visit of Northampton.
Thelo Aasgaard and Olly Crankshaw made their first league starts for the club.
Manager John Sheridan adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation in windy conditions.
The visitors started strongly and the big Northampton striker Harry Smith headed over before Jones denied Watson with a good save low down.
Watson then headed over following a free-kick on nine minutes and the visitors were ahead on 12 minutes when the midfielder Watson poked the ball home after Latics’ defenders failed to clear.
Latics’ makeshift defence was struggling to come to terms with Smith’s aerial presence and Crankshaw was immediately withdrawn and replaced by Emeka Obi in central defence.
The visitors increased their lead on 22 minutes as Hoskins latched onto a header from Michael Harriman and raced through the centre of Latics’ defence before slotting the ball past Jamie Jones.
The signs looked ominous for the inexperienced hosts as Watson was given far too much space in the box but he fired straight at Jones.
Matty Palmer headed over from Pearce’s cross on the stroke of half time but Latics had rarely threatened in a poor first half display.
Latics noticeably improved after the half time break with Garner heading over and James curling a shot narrowly over the angle of post and crossbar.
Palmer was moving the ball well in midfield as Latics started to create some momentum.
Pearce was tripped in the box on 62 minutes and Garner converted the penalty for his sixth goal of the season.
But the visitors almost immediately restored their two-goal lead as Latics gave the ball away in midfield and substitute Chukwuemeka made it 3-1.
Joseph replaced Aasgaard on 72 minutes and James made it 3-2 on 74 minutes with a fine header from Pearce’s cross.
Latics were now passing the ball to good effect and looked the most likely to score.
Substitute Joseph turned superbly in the box on 84 minutes before crashing his shot against the post.
Latics continued to press for the equaliser but they just couldn’t capitalise on their dominance and Northampton held out for the three points.
Despite the injury-crisis Latics youthful line-up had pushed the visitors in the second half and they might have secured a draw if it hadn’t been for such a poor first half display.
It is fair to say that any team would struggle without seven first teamers, and it must be frustrating for the manager to see players making mistakes, but the majority of the team are inexperienced and the fans shouldn’t be too critical in the circumstances.
If they can get the injured players back fit there is no reason why they can’t start to climb away from the bottom of the table.