- Wigan Athletic go into the FA Cup fourth round draw after a hard fought 1-1 draw at Luton Town.
- Latics went in front on 17 minutes when Tom Naylor finished from close range from Curtis Tilt’s pass.
- In added time in the first half the Hatters equalised when Harry Connick headed home from a Carlton Morris cross.
- The hosts dominated possession in the second half but the visitors went closest to breaking the deadlock when Naylor’s header was well saved by Ethan Horvath and in added time Naylor had a header controversially disallowed.
- The draw for the fourth round will take place on Sunday at 4.05pm and the replay will take place on Tuesday 17th January.
Kolo Toure made three changes to the team which was defeated by Hull City with Ben Amos, Rarmani Edmonds-Green and Tom Naylor coming into the starting line up.
It was a cagey opening to the game, James McClean was first to try his luck from distance but his strike flew wide of the target.
Cauley Woodrow then had an opportunity for the hosts when he got on the end of a cross from the right hand side, but the effort was comfortably saved by Ben Amos.
Latics went ahead in the 17th minute after some good pressure. Callum Lang’s header was denied by Horvath before the ball came out to Tilt who found Naylor and the midfielder turned the ball home from close range.
Latics were now on top and causing plenty of problems for the hosts. But Luton began to respond towards the end of the half and Cornick curled an effort narrowly wide of Amos’ left-hand post.
The visitors then almost doubled their lead as Ashley Fletcher drilled an effort towards goal, but the USA international Horvath got down well to his left to push the ball away.
Just when it looked like Latics would go into the break ahead, Luton equalised when Morris dinked the ball across to Cornick who rose highest to head past Amos and into the far corner.
Latics had an early chance at the start of the second half when Fletcher drilled a ball across to Lang to strike on the volley but he couldn’t connect properly as the ball flew wide of the target.
The hosts then enjoyed a sustained period of possession and forced a series of corners but Latics held firm. Whatmough was much improved after an off-day against Hull and made numerous vital defensive blocks and clearances.
Both sides then made numerous substitutions in an attempt to gain control but these only managed to disrupt the flow of the game.
Gradually substitutes Will Keane and Thelo Aasgaard started to make an impact and Lang was a little unlucky when he had a goal disallowed for a challenge on Horvath.
Aasgaard nearly repeated his match winner from the league fixture at Luton earlier in the season, when cutting inside, this time his strike was more central and Horvath saved well low down.
In added time Latics had two huge opportunities to seal the tie.
Naylor first went close to putting Latics ahead when his looping header from a Power free-kick nearly found the top corner but his effort was superbly saved by Luton keeper.
From the resulting corner, Latics thought they had their winner. McClean’s in-swinging corner was met by Naylor’s header which hit the back of the net but play was controversially pulled back either for a foul on the goalkeeper or an offside decision.
It was a frustrating ending for Latics who had performed so much better than in recent weeks.
Latics enjoyed an FA Cup respite from their Championship troubles. They showed good character and determination to get a result at Luton who are seventh in the Championship table. In fact they might won the tie after a late attacking flurry and a marginal offside/foul call.
They had defended well throughout with a back three of Whatmough, Tilt and Edmonds-Green and generally they looked more solid than in previous weeks.
Tom Naylor had one of his best games in a Latics shirt and could easily have scored a hat-trick of headers with better luck.
These are still tentative steps for new manager Toure, but the players had showed a positive response to the recent dreadful results.
They will need to continue that improvement if they’re to get a good result in a crucial relegation clash at Cardiff City next Saturday.
Despite the improved display at Luton, Latics will need to bring in new players to strengthen the squad after the departures of Nathan Broadhead and Graeme Shinnie. Both players were well regarded by the Latics fans and it is essential that they are replaced with players of similar, if not better quality.
It is clear the club urgently need reinforcements in most areas and most recently they have been linked with former England defender Steven Caulker who is currently playing in Turkey and Nottingham Forest duo Harry Toffolo and Jack Colback.
Post match comments
Speaking afterwards, Toure said: “It was a positive performance.
“The boys played really well and in the first half, I thought we controlled the game and were the better team, but gave away a cheap goal.
“In the second half, Luton played well but we responded well and had to change our shape to stop them and put fresh legs into the game.
“The boys defended for their lives and everyone worked as a team. The mentality was unbelievable, and in the last 15 minutes we were on top, and thought we had won it in the last minute, but sadly it was disallowed.
“We want to fight in every game, and we want to make sure that if any team wants to beat us, they have to work really hard.”
The Latics manager is now looking forward to work on the training field.
“We now have time to work on the training field (with the week break between games) and do some specific work,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to that with focus on Cardiff.”