- Wigan Athletic slipped to the bottom of the Championship after an emphatic 4-1 home defeat to Sunderland.
- Injury-hit Latics struggled to contain the in-form Mackems and went behind on 19 minutes when Ellis Simms headed in from close range.
- The visitors had several good chances to increase their lead in the first half but it was the hosts who drew level on 42 minutes when Will Keane followed up Thelo Aasgaard’s strike after it was spilled by Anthony Patterson.
- Substitute Ross Stewart restored the visitors lead from the penalty spot on 66 minutes and substitute Patrick Roberts added a third with a deflected effort on 85 minutes.
- Amad Diallo’s superb strike from 25-yards made if four on 89 minutes to round off a splendid night for the Black Cats.
- Latics drop to the bottom of the Championship table and are three points from safety while Sunderland move into the play-off places in fourth spot.
Kolo Toure made three changes from their Boxing Day defeat at Middlesbrough, with captain Tendayi Darikwa and Tom Naylor returning to the starting line-up, along with Ashley Fletcher who was given his first Latics league start.
The visitors started the game confidently and pressed high from the kick off.
Latics lost another centre back, this time Charlie Hughes, to injury after a very clumsy challenge by a Sunderland forward on 17 minutes. Substitute full back Ryan Nyambe had to replace him at centre back.
Referee Michael Salisbury was doing Latics no favours and booked McClean for an innocuous foul while the dangerous foul on Hughes had gone unpunished.
Latics were thankful to keeper Jamie Jones who made a superb double save in the 19th minute. Jones did brilliantly to save Diallo’s low effort with his leg, and he recovered quickly to slide across his goal-line and parry Abdoullah Ba’s follow-up effort for a corner.
Unfortunately for Jones and Latics the visitors were ahead just a minute later through Simms after he headed Hume’s cross in at the far post.
The visitors nearly added a second when Diallo was through on goal but James McClean produced a crucial last-ditch tackle to stop the strike.
Latics showed good spirit and nearly drew level when McClean’s powerful volley from the edge of the area struck the crossbar in the 40th minute.
Almost immediately at the other end Diallo saw his his effort crash against the woodwork.
But Latics got back on level terms three minutes before the interval through the predatory striker Keane.
Aasgaard’s powerful strike from 20 yards out was spilled by keeper Patterson and Keane grabbed his ninth goal of the season firing home from close range.
Latics were somewhat lucky to go into half-time level but they started the second half strongly.
They had a good opportunity when Lang was sent in the clear down the right hand side, but he was denied by a vital last-ditch tackle by Luke O’Nien.
But despite Latics looking the better side Sunderland regained the lead in the 66th minute when substitute Stewart converted from the penalty spot, after Naylor was harshly penalised for a foul on Roberts.
The game then slipped out Latics’ reach with two late goals from Roberts and Diallo.
Substitute Roberts adding the third with a deflected effort on 85 minutes and Diallo’s superb strike from 25-yards made if four on 89 minutes.
Toure has made some positive changes to the style of play since taking over as manager but injuries to key players and defensive mistakes have put the club in a precarious position.
Few teams would manage to get results when they are missing nearly all their central defenders. Charlie Hughes injury against Sunderland was yet another damaging blow.
Unless we can get cover in very soon there is a danger that Latics could become detached at the bottom of the table.
The optimism of Latics’ early season form under Leam Richardson has now dissolved into a desperate relegation struggle.
Owners Phoenix 2021 decisions in the January transfer window are now crucial to Latics’ survival in the Championship.
It is clear from recent performances that the club needs defensive reinforcements immediately and some more quality in attacking positions if they are to avoid relegation.
Post match comments
Speaking afterwards Toure felt the scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection of the game, and he couldn’t fault the players’ effort levels despite the end result.
“It was a tough result to take,” he said.
“I felt like it wasn’t a 4-1 game. The players gave everything, worked really hard and tried to put them under pressure, but Sunderland brought on quality from the bench which made the difference.
“The response (after the Sunderland) goal was great. They kept fighting, believing in the way we want to play and were brave on the ball.
“After Sunderland scored (the second), we chased the game and looked to score. When you push forward against a team like Sunderland, you open the doors at the back, and that’s what happened at the end.
“They (the players) gave everything tonight, and I was disappointed for them that they didn’t get something from the game.”
Latics have to recover quickly as they have an important bottom of the table clash with Hull City on Monday afternoon.
Toure expressed the importance that his side swiftly changes their focus, with another huge game awaiting them in the Championship.
“We have to now think about the next game, which is very important for us. We have to give everything we’ve got, and try and win that game.”