- Wigan Athletic’s 20 game unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-0 FA Cup defeat at Stoke City.
- Latics made nine changes to the starting line-up but were unlucky to go behind when Jason Kerr slipped in the area and Josh Maja capitalised in the 14th minute.
- The visitors matched their Championship opponents for long periods but substitute Jacob Brown doubled the hosts lead on 62 minutes.
- Latics hopes of any comeback were dashed when Gwion Edwards was red carded for a second bookable offence on 74 minutes.
- Stoke could’ve added more goals in the dying stages but Steven Fletcher, Josh Tymon and Brown all wasted good opportunities to add to the lead.
Leam Richardson made nine changes from Tuesday’s draw with Oxford United. Only Max Power and Gavin Massey retained their places in the starting line-up while Glen Rea and Jamie McGrath made their debuts. Stoke had former Latic Nick Powell in their side.
The hosts started strongly and went close to scoring when Jamie Jones clearance went straight to Tyrese Campbell whose curling effort from the edge of the area was well blocked by Kell Watts.
Latics then had a great opportunity when McGrath’s cross from the left was headed on by Edwards and Power was in a good position but failed to make contact with his attempted volley.
Stoke went ahead through Maja in the 14th minute. Powell on the right produced a superb pass into the path of Campbell who crossed into the area and when Kerr unluckily slipped it allowed Maja to finish from close range.
Powell, who was a constant threat, then got on the end of Ben Thompson’s corner from the left, but his header cleared the crossbar at the near post.
But Latics had responded well to going behind and they had a great chance to draw level when Edwards’ incisive pass found Josh Magennis in space inside the area but the striker fired well wide of the far post.
At half time Latics replaced Power with captain Tendayi Darikwa, presumably due to an injury.
Stoke started the second half strongly and had an early opportunity when Campbell tried his luck from distance but his low effort didn’t trouble keeper Jones.
Campbell almost doubled their lead in the 56th minute when Wright-Phillips’ cross deflected into his path at the far post but first-time effort went over the crossbar.
Latics then had two good chances in quick succession.
First, Gavin Massey, who had his best game of the season, burst forward past several Stoke players and fired a low shot at goalkeeper Joe Bursik.
Then Tom Bayliss’ bent an excellent free-kick over Bursik but his effort clipped the top of the crossbar and went over.
Substitute Brown then doubled the hosts advantage with his first touch. The ball came to him on the edge of the area and his first time strike unerringly found the bottom corner of the net.
Latics didn’t give up however, and a goal for the visitors would have restored the competitive balance. They went close through substitute Stephen Humphrys header which was comfortably saved by Bursik.
However, the visitors hopes of a comeback were dashed when they were reduced to ten men when Edwards was shown a second yellow card for a late foul on Brown.
Despite the setback Latics continued to try to get back into the game and Darikwa fired over the crossbar from a good position.
Joe Bennett did well to block an effort from Tymon and substitute Steven Fletcher nearly increased the hosts lead with four minutes of normal time remaining after Brown cut the ball back but his effort crashed against the crossbar from close range.
As Latics tired, Jones was then called into action after Tymon found Brown at the far post with a dangerous cross, but the Latics goalkeeper did brilliantly to keep out the effort from point-blank range.
Despite the final result Latics had put in a good performance against Championship opponents and there had been promising debuts for Glen Rea and Jamie McGrath.
It was disappointing to lose their 20 game unbeaten run but Latics fans shouldn’t be too despondent, as Sunderland lost at home to Doncaster and they remain in second place in the League One table with four games in hand on MK Dons, Sunderland and Oxford.
Latics return to League One action on Tuesday night at Sheffield Wednesday when I expect a much changed team will take the pitch.
Talking to the media after the game, Richardson said:
“I thought in large parts, we were good.
“You’ve got to respect the calibre of player that they’ve got. You’d expect them to give us a real tough and healthy challenge, and I thought we stood up to it in large parts.
“In spells, we were good but the game was won and lost in both boxes. In the first half, apart from the mistake for their goal, I thought we went toe-to-toe and probably shaded it.
“When it was 11v11, I thought we were very competitive. Once the second goal goes in, coupled with the sending off, the game changes and it’s all about making sure lads have minutes in their legs and doing the right things for the games to come.
“There were lads who needed 90 minutes and going forward, it will be important for our campaign.”