- Wigan Athletic slipped into the relegation zone after a narrow 1-0 defeat to Stoke City at the DW Stadium.
- In a first half of limited chances Latics had a great opportunity to open the scoring in the 38th minute but Will Keane headed over from close range.
- In the second half Josh Tymon seized upon a defensive mistake to fire the visitors ahead on 62 minutes.
- Latics were unlucky to have a goal ruled out in added time but they have now lost five consecutive league games.
- Latics drop to 22nd place in the Championship table and the Potters move up to 17th place.
Leam Richardson made one change from Saturday’s defeat against Watford, with Tom Naylor replacing the suspended Graeme Shinnie.
The first opportunity of the game fell to the visitors but Tymon’s long range effort was wide of Jamie Jones’ goal.
Latics responded and Max Power’s low drive clipped the outside of the near post with the Potters keeper Joe Bursik struggling to get across to it.
Latics had another good opportunity in the 20th minute. James McClean’s corner found Jack Whatmough free at the back post, but the defender’s powerful header cleared the crossbar.
The visitors then had a chance when Jacob Brown broke free of Latics’ defence and tried to find Dwight Gayle in the box, but Brown miscued his pass and Jason Kerr was able to intercept and clear the danger.
The Potters continued to push Latics back into defence and Gayle saw his headed effort go wide of the target in the 32nd minute.
The hosts then had a glorious opportunity to make the breakthrough when Tendayi Darikwa did brilliantly to create space and deliver a pin-point cross to the far post. Keane looked odds-on to score but he couldn’t keep his header down and his effort went over the crossbar.
Latics started the second half brightly and Jordan Cousins almost immediately went close to opening the scoring. The former Stoke midfielder found space 25 yards out and unleashed a curling strike which looked destined for the top corner but it was narrowly wide.
The visitors then forced an excellent save from Jones in the 53rd minute. A cross into the box caused a goalmouth scramble before falling to Brown. After creating space, the striker fired towards goal, and Jones did superbly to deflect the shot wide with his leg.
But Stoke were ahead in the 62nd minute when Latics defence over committed. Three defenders went forward to challenge Tymon but none were able to get in a tackle and he ran through into the penalty area before driving the ball low past Jones.
The Potters nearly doubled their lead in the 88th minute. Substitute Tariqe Fosu broke into the box before finding Harry Clarke whose strike was deflected wide by Jones.
Latics then looked to have a lifeline in the 90th minute. A corner into the far post found substitute Josh Magennis and after a scramble, Naylor turned the ball into the net, but his finish was ruled out for handball in the build-up.
Despite late pressure from Latics, Stoke held firm, and the hosts suffered another frustrating narrow defeat.
Latics had once again lost out by a narrow margin. They could easily have taken three draws from the last three games against QPR, Watford and Stoke but unfortunately it was not to be.
They cannot afford to continually make mistakes at this level and once again a defensive error allowed Stoke to take all three points.
At the other end Latics are not creating enough chances but even when they do they are not being clinical in front of goal.
Callum Lang is being sorely missed but the other strikers must step up and contribute more goals.
Graeme Shinnie was also badly missed against Stoke, as Latics lacked any real creativity from midfield. At least he will be available for the trip to Swansea on Saturday.
Latics now have three more games before the World Cup and it is important that they try to pick up some points and stop the rot before the break.
These same players started the season strongly and they are capable of getting positive results again.
Post match comments
Speaking afterwards Richardson was disappointed that his side couldn’t capitalise on their key chances, and fell to defeat.
“It was a tough result,” he said.
“On the back of the last few performances, you want to give a high level of performance again.
“I didn’t think there was much in the game, to be honest – it looked like two teams who had not won enough games of late, and that it was going to end in a draw.
“It was waiting for that moment of brilliance, and we had a big chance before they scored. For the first time all night when we became lopsided within our shape, they ran through the gap and scored their goal. It was disappointing.”
Wednesday’s narrow loss meant that Latics are still going through a tough period following their return to the Second Tier, and Richardson emphasised that it is his responsibility to now help them come through the other side of this period.
“It’s their (players) first rocky spell as a group, and we are used to winning and progressing. We had eight bad weekends all of last year, and this year, it looks like we will have more than that.
“It’s easy being there high-fiving everyone, lifting trophies, and getting all the accolades, but it’s my job to be there when people need you the most.
“It’s my job when people need leading – players and staff within the Football Club – and we have to progress. It’s a fantastic league, coming up against some fantastic players and football clubs, and a lot of our lads are learning on the job.
“They are doing very well in large parts, but it’s just those moments that we’ve got to be better at.”