- Wigan Athletic suffered a heavy Boxing Day defeat at in-form Middlesbrough.
- Boro striker Chuba Akpom grabbed a hat-trick as Michael Carrick’s team continued their rise towards the top six.
- Marcus Forss opened the scoring on 26 minutes and the hosts took complete control in the second half with Latics makeshift defence exposed by Akpom’s finishing in the 49th and 59th minute.
- Thelo Aasgaard pulled a goal back for Latics on 61 minutes but Akpom completed his hat-trick in added time.
- Latics remain in 23rd place and three points from safety while Middlesbrough move up to 10th in the Championship table.
Latics were without three centre-halves, Jason Kerr, Jack Whatmough and Rarmani Edwards-Green. Kolo Toure made four changes from the team which had narrowly lost to Sheffield United with Ryan Nyambe, Jordan Cousins, Thelo Aasgaard and debutant Charlie Hughes starting.
The first opportunity of the first half fell to Latics striker Nathan Broadhead. The Everton loanee found space and hit a powerful strike towards goal, but keeper Zack Steffen was able to push the ball away.
The hosts responded and Duncan Watmore’s strike from the edge of the area was well pushed over the bar by Jamie Jones.
After a good initial opening by Latics, on 26 minutes Boro went ahead through Forss. The ball was played in from the right hand side, and the striker found the bottom corner of the net.
Boro nearly extended their lead soon afterwards when a header from a corner looked destined to find the net, but Aasgaard was able to get in the way and head over the bar from a couple of yards out.
Latics then had a couple of chances to restore parity. First, Max Power and Broadhead combined before feeding Callum Lang to strike on the turn, but his effort was blocked by a Boro defender.
From the resulting corner, Hughes met James McClean’s corner at the far post, but could only divert his header over and the hosts went into the interval 1-0 ahead.
The hosts started the second half strongly and they were 2-0 up after only two minutes. Akpom finished powerfully ino the roof of the net after a cross from the left hand side.
Boro’s lead quickly became three when Akpom grabbed his second when finishing with his left foot to find the bottom left-hand corner of Latics’ net.
Latics almost immediately pulled a goal back when Power’s excellent delivery to the back post was superbly finished high into the net by Aasgaard.
The visitors tried to push forward with Lang chasing a ball down over the top. The striker beat Boro keeper, Steffen, to the ball and looped his effort towards goal, but Darragh Lenihan was on hand to clear the danger.
Graeme Shinnie replaced Broadhead on 69 minutes and Anthony Scully and Tendayi Darikwa replaced Aasgaard and Nyambe on 75 minutes. Tom Naylor and Ashley Fletcher replaced Cousins and Lang on 86 minutes.
Latics continued to push to reduce the deficit, and substitute Fletcher had a header from the centre of the goal saved by Steffen, but it was the hosts who added a fourth when Akpom completed his hat-trick in the 93rd minute.
Latics were without three recognised central defenders yesterday, Kerr, Whatmough and Edwards-Green and although Charlie Hughes is a promising young defender, he is probably not yet ready for the rigours of the Championship.
Toure is trying to play attractive attacking football but the injuries and lack of squad depth mean they will have to dig deep to get results. The games continue to come thick and fast and Latics need to get some victories quickly. The next two home games will be tough against Sunderland and Hull City but it is important that they do pick up points and do not get detached from the teams above them.
The January transfer window is imminent and it is vital that Phoenix 2021 back Toure and strengthen the squad, bringing in more quality and utilising the loan market. It would be a disaster if Latics were relegated and allowed to slip back into League One due to a lack of investment.
Post match comments
Speaking afterwards, Toure was honest with his assessment.
“It was a tough afternoon,” he said.
“I felt like we started the game quite well and put them under pressure, and I think we should have been more aggressive in front of goal.
“But then we gave a goal away on a throw in, where we aren’t organised properly, and that cost us the game as the confidence then goes down.
“Unfortunately at the moment, we only start playing when we concede, and we aren’t aggressive enough, especially defensively.
“That’s something we need to fix and be more pro-active, like we did against Millwall.”
Latics have two home games to come in the next few days at the DW, and Toure wants his side to use these upcoming games as a way to respond and pick up points.
“We have to analyse quickly now,” he said.
“There are some things we can take, but also some things to correct, but we have a big opportunity with two home games to make sure we get points.”
“We have to think about the next game moving forward, and we have to give everything.”