- Latics were narrowly defeated 1-0 by promotion-chasing Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
- The hosts were dominant for long periods and went ahead after only eight minutes when Iliman Ndiaye tapped home at the back post.
- Despite the early set-back Latics defended resolutely and tried to hit the Blades on the break.
- The Blades wasted some good chances and Latics keeper Ben Amos pulled off some spectacular saves.
- Latics could’ve grabbed an unlikely point when Thelo Aasgaard’s header forced an excellent save from Wes Foderingham but although the Blades had further chances the match ended 1-0.
- Latics remain bottom of the table and eight points from safety with only six games remaining. The Blades are in second place and eight points clear of third-placed Luton.
Shaun Maloney made just one change to his starting line-up as Thelo Aasgaard came in for the injured Daniel Sinani.
It was the hosts with the first effort at goal from a well worked corner routine but Manchester City loanee Tommy Doyle fired over from the edge of the box.
The Blades went ahead on eight minutes as another City loanee James McAtee crossed to the back post where Ndiaye was able to tap home.
The FA Cup semi-finalists pressed for a quick second but Ben Amos came to Latics’ rescue as he superbly tipped over Billy Sharp’s close range effort.
Latics tried to respond when Callum Lang played a neat one-two with Ashley Fletcher, but Lang’s cut- back evaded Fletcher in the box.
At the other end Tendayi Darikwa denied McAtee with a last ditch tackle to prevent another goal.
James McClean then saved Latics as Ndiaye was played through, and cut inside, but McClean got his body in the way of the ball on the line to thwart the hosts.
Early in the second half Amos produced another spectacular save as he once again denied Sharp from point blank range.
McAtee then fired inches wide from the edge of the box after some neat build up play from the Blades.
The Tics might’ve produced an unlikely equaliser on the hour mark as first substitute Tom Naylor’s effort was blocked before McClean’s cross to the back post was met by Aasgaard, but his header was superbly tipped over by Foderingham.
Latics were starting to threaten and Lang headed wide at a corner and Jack Robinson needed to make a great challenge to deny him later. Substitute Josh Magennis headed over the crossbar from a good position.
The equaliser now seemed a distinct possibility as Magennis was involved again a minute later as he looked to get on the end of a Lang cross, but he couldn’t stretch enough to make a good contact.
But the Blades were always a threat and the powerful Sander Berge fired over from 25 yards.
Despite their best efforts Latics just couldn’t do enough to grab an equaliser against a team who will no doubt be playing in the Premier League next season.
Latics face Swansea City on Easter Monday at the DW Stadium in what is a now a must win fixture.
This had been a dominant display by an upwardly mobile Sheffield United but even so Latics still created enough chances to snatch a draw. With better finishing they might have come away with an unlikely point.
Latics are now eight points from safety with an inferior goal difference. With Huddersfield, Cardiff and Rotherham all winning Latics chances of Championship survival are looking slim.
Maloney’s men will need to show a marked improvement in the final third if they are to escape the drop but optimists like me think they are capable of defeating Swansea and Blackpool and still be in with a chance of survival.
But it is now crunch time and only a run of victories can save the club from relegation back to League One.
Post match comments
Speaking afterwards Shaun Maloney felt that his side recovered well after Ndiaye’s eighth-minute strike, though they unfortunately could not capitalise on the key opportunities that fell their way at Bramall Lane.
“I was disappointed with the result, especially with the way that the second half went,” he said.
“I spoke before the game about how clinical we are when attacking their box was going to determine the game.
“We had a difficult first 10 minutes when we conceded, and then after that, I thought we were very good in the first half and tried to control the game.
“They have a good strong squad, and we came here to win the game but our levels were just slightly down in the attacking third and for me, that was the difference in the game.
“We had to ride our luck at times, but we had to try and win the game. We knew we’d create chances, and we did in the second half, but the difference was they took theirs and we didn’t take ours.”
While Latics’ brave effort went unrewarded at Bramall Lane, they will have an immediate opportunity to return to winning ways when they host Swansea City on Monday afternoon.
Maloney expressed the importance of regrouping and responding in the right way when the Swans visit the DW Stadium.
“The results have gone against us today, but we can’t control that, so we go again Monday and prepare to win the game again.”
I probably wasn’t going next Saturday but we’ve now potted McCarthy! Rejoice! I admire your optimism, but we’re both getting relegated. If proven wrong, I’ll gladly buy you a Vimto.
Bad timing for us sacking McCarthy. I’d hoped he would be in charge on Saturday. Anyway it’s the last chance saloon for both teams.
We could do without having Luton on Monday! Anyhow, at least those in charge are not dinosaurs like McCarthy and his assistant. Whatever happens at Wigan Maloney has done a great job stabilising the ship, and has really tightened it up at the back. We feel as you probably do, that it has been a needlessly and avoidably wasted season.
Agreed! The sacking of Richardson was a huge mistake and the appointment of Toure a disaster. The mismanagement of the club by Phoenix 2021 has been hugely damaging and they must quickly learn from their mistakes and get the club back on an even keel.