- Wigan Athletic slipped back to the bottom of the Championship table after a 1-0 defeat at play-off chasing West Bomwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
- After a tentative opening period West Brom went ahead when Latics keeper Ben Amos could only push Jayson Malumby’s effort onto the crossbar and Daryl Dike had an easy task to head home from close range.
- The Baggies had further chances to seal the points and hit the woodwork on four occasions.
- Latics rallied in the latter stages and threatened the Baggies goal with substitute Tom Pearce forcing an acrobatic save from goalkeeper Josh Griffiths.
- Latics drop to the bottom of the table on goal difference after Huddersfield secured a point against Bristol City. West Brom move up to ninth and are four points off the play-offs.
Shaun Maloney had to make an enforced change to his starting line-up at the last minute when Jack Whatmough picked up a knock in the warm-up and was replaced by Ryan Nyambe. Tendayi Darikwa and Will Keane also came into the starting XI from Saturday’s draw with Birmingham City.
In a very tentative opening period both sides seemed reluctant to commit men forward and take any chances.
However the best chance of the opening quarter came to the Baggies, as a low cross from the left found Jayson Molumby free inside the six-yard box, but he misdirected his effort wide.
The hosts went ahead on 27 minutes when Molumby played a one-two and fired a shot from a narrow angle which Ben Amos disappointingly could only palm onto the crossbar. Dike was on hand to head home from close range.
West Brom might’ve added to their lead soon afterwards when Dike found space in the box and fired powerfully towards goal but fortunately the strike was straight at Amos and the Latics keeper was able to clutch the rebound.
Latics were under the cosh now and the Baggies captain Dara O’Shea should’ve added to their lead but he headed over from 10 yards when unmarked at the back post following a free kick from the left.
Maloney’s men looked intimidated by their opponents and they offered little going forward. The strikers were out of sorts and Keane’s poor strike, which was well wide of the target just before half-time, typified their lack of confidence.
Maloney made a double change at the break. Christ Tiehi was replaced by Thelo Aasgaard whilst Joe Bennett came on for Nyambe.
The Baggies maintained their dominance however, and early in the second half Amos did well to deny Conor Townsend from 30 yards with a save low down.
Jed Wallace might’ve added to the hosts lead on 52 minutes when his strike crashed against Amos’ near post and away from danger.
Josh Magennis replaced Keane on 66 minutes and the Northern Ireland international had a rare chance when Fletcher’s cross to the back post found him but the striker was unable to keep his header down.
Maloney encouraged his players to go forward in the latter stages and Darikwa’s cross fell to Fletcher on the edge of the box, but his effort was blocked before substitute Aasgaard tested Griffiths with a low drive from the edge of the box, which he palmed away at his near post.
The Baggies then went close at the other end, with Amos saving low down, before the ball found John Swift inside the box. His strike crashed against the crossbar and Latics survived.
At the other end Magennis then found space in the box, but his header from James McClean’s cross was straight at Griffiths.
In added time, Latics thought they had grabbed an equaliser when Danel Sinani’s pass found substitute Pearce inside the box, but his side-footed volley was acrobatically tipped over by Griffiths.
Maloney’s men had threatened in the latter stages but they had been second best for most of the game and they could easily have lost by more than one goal.
Latics had been unlucky to be without centre back Jack Whatmough who was injured in the warm-up but their performance in the first half was unacceptable. They showed little evidence of any commitment or desire in the opening period.
Christ Tiehi who has been impressive since joining on loan was out of sorts and once again struggled to make any impact. If he is injured that is understandable, but his performance levels have dropped significantly in the last two games.
Callum Lang’s continued absence means Latics have limited options in the final third and although Fletcher and Magennis do their best they are not the quickest or most mobile of attackers. Top scorer Keane is also out of form and struggling for confidence.
Latics stood off their opponents for long periods during the game and failed to build any real momentum. The Baggies could easily have been three ahead at half-time. Confidence is clearly now very low as they have only won one of their last 16 games.
Maloney’s men did improve following the substitutions and did at least threaten towards the end of the game, but overall their lacklustre performance had just not been good enough.
The prospect of facing Championship leaders Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday now looks an even more daunting proposition.
Post match comments
Speaking afterwards Shaun Maloney said,
“The first-half performance was not really what we’re looking for given the position we’re in.
“In the second half there was a lot more intent in the way we tried to attack and we created chances.
“Of course we can get out of it and the mood is good but we can’t afford to drift again like we did in that first half. That won’t happen again.
“Burnley on Saturday will be a challenge but we just have to give what we can, as we did in the second half here, and then I can’t ask any more from the players.”
It’s really the proverbial or bust this weekend. If Cardiff win at PNE and both Pool and Wigan lose, I would then say it is all over bar the shouting. QPR look vulnerable – we have them at home on Tuesday – so hopefully Watford will have another new manager bounce! If though we don’t win our own games, it matters not what the others do.
Agreed its not looking good. We have tough games ahead and last night’s performance didn’t give me much hope. There’s still plenty of points to play for but it will require a rapid transformation for us to survive now.