- Wigan Athletic controversially suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat to local rivals Preston North End at Deepdale.
- Latics had taken a first half lead when Christ Tiehi’s cross was deflected over his own goal-line by Greg Cunningham.
- Early in the second half Daniel Johnson went down under an innocuous challenge by goalkeeper Ben Amos and referee Thomas Bramall controversially awarded a spot-kick to Preston which was converted by Johnson.
- Four minutes later the hosts went in front as a ball over the top allowed Tom Cannon to run free and finish via the post.
- There was late Latics pressure as they pushed for an equaliser with substitute Daniel Sinani going close on several occasions.
- Substitute Robbie Brady was dismissed for a dangerous challenge on Jack Whatmough in added time.
- North End held out for their first win in six league and cup matches and Latics suffered their first defeat under Shaun Maloney.
- Latics remain bottom of the table and are effectively five points from safety with a game in hand on Cardiff. PNE move up to 12th in the table.
Maloney kept the same starting line-up following a goalless draw against Norwich City last week. Despite picking up an injury last week Whatmough was declared fit enough to start.
Latics started strongly right from the kick off and Will Keane found space in the North End box, he chipped the ball to Callum Lang at the back post, but he couldn’t get the ball under control and the hosts cleared.
The hosts first attempt was on 15 minutes when Ryan Ledson fired over from 25 yards. Soon afterwards Cannon cut inside from the left and fired a curling effort just wide of Amos’ post.
Latics went ahead after 27 minutes. Tiehi burst forward and played a one-two with Ashley Fletcher before firing a low drive across the box which hit defender Cunningham before crossing the goal-line.
Lang then drove a strike straight at Freddie Woodman from 30 yards out. Just before the interval he fired another low drive inches wide of the far post.
Latics had had the better of the first half, with Tiéhi once again impressive in midfield, and they deservedly led at half time.
The beginning of the second half started in controversial circumstances as North End’s first real attack resulted in a penalty. Amos went down to his knees to collect the ball and collided with Johnson and referee Bramall surprisingly awarded a spot-kick.
Johnson stepped up and converted the penalty to draw the hosts level.
North End were then ahead just four minutes later as a ball over the top found Cannon in the clear and the Everton loanee fired the ball in off the far post.
Substitute Tom Pearce replaced Tendayi Darikwa on 65 minutes and he soon produced a dangerous cross into Ashley Fletcher, but his volley flew over.
Lang was then played in by another substitute, Daniel Sinani, but Bambo Diaby got across to block the shot.
Latics were pressing hard for the equaliser now and Sinani had another shot from 20 yards deflected wide and then from the resulting corner, forced a good save from Woodman after a low drive from the edge of the box.
Maloney’s men were now throwing everything at the North End goal.
Sinani had a 30 yard free-kick curl over the crossbar before he was involved again in stoppage time, but volleyed inches wide.
Preston substitute Robbie Brady was shown a straight red in added time after a nasty challenge on Whatmough before Pearce cut in from the left and fired wide.
Latics forced a succession of late corners, which saw goalkeeper Amos head into the opposition box, but Preston held out for the three points.
The penalty decision was probably the turning point in the game. Latics had been the better team in the first half and deservedly led at half time. The referee’s harsh decision had gifted North End a way back into the game early in the second period.
Latics defence had been caught out for the second goal with a long ball over the top but overall they had deserved to get at least a point at Deepdale. The visitors had 14 shots to the hosts seven and matched mid-table North End for possession throughout.
Maloney’s men have shown that they are capable of escaping the drop but they must be better in the final third if they are to rise away from the bottom of the table. Keane, Lang and Fletcher are all misfiring at the moment and they will need to be more clinical against Birmingham City next Saturday at the DW Stadium.
Post match comments
Speaking afterwards Maloney felt that the key moments in the game cost his side dearly at Deepdale, and his side must now swiftly switch their focus to reacting in a positive manner for their next league fixture against Birmingham City.
“I felt we were a little unlucky, mainly due to the penalty decision,” he said.
“I still wasn’t pleased with how we played, and even going 1-0 up at half-time, I think we could’ve been a lot better.
“I’m disappointed with how we played and I don’t think we did enough to win the game. We didn’t play badly enough to lose it, but big moments in the game cost us.
“I don’t think it was a penalty due to the way the player ran into the goalkeeper, but what I found more disappointing is how they ended up in that area.
I will say the players have been excellent for four games, and in the first half, we defended extremely well. It’s just in those moments which we didn’t today, but I have to give them credit for the last four games.
“It’s a big first blow for the players under myself, and we have to all respond on Monday and keep fighting.”
Latics were backed by a large following for the local Derby at Deepdale, and Maloney was quick to praise the 3,500-plus supporters who made the trip to get behind his team.
“I thought they were brilliant today, and I appreciated every single one of them coming,” he said.
“I know it’s not easy at the moment to follow football teams, and I hope they saw a team that is fighting.”
The only time I ever ever wanted PNE to win (sorry). It’s looking bleak for us both, tbh. We have the small matter of Burnley on Saturday, with potentially no fit strikers.
Referee did us no favours and a draw would’ve been a fair result. I’m still hopeful we can survive but we need wins starting against Birmingham on Saturday. Unfortunately we still have to play Burnley as well.