- Wigan Athletic were relegated from the Championship after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Reading.
- Latics needed a victory to keep their season alive and took the lead through defender Charlie Hughes in the 81st minute but the Royals equalised in the 93rd minute through Yakou Meite.
- Latics have one game remaining against Rotherham but they cannot now escape the drop to League One.
- Reading are in 22nd place with one game remaining and are dependent on other teams results if they are to survive in the Championship.
- Overall Latics’ season can be categorised as one of mismanagement by owners Phoenix 2021 whose mistakes have been the biggest factor in the relegation.
Shaun Maloney made one change to the starting XI that had defeated Millwall with Hughes replacing Omar Rekik in defence.
Reading made a bright start to the game and quickly pushed Latics onto the defensive.
But it was Latics who had the first chance on seven minutes when Hughes volleyed wide of the target from a good position just outside the box.
On 21 minutes Tom McIntyre had a good opportunity for the hosts but he fired high and wide from the centre of the box.
The Royals were enjoying the lion’s share of possession in the first half but they were struggling to create any clear-cut opportunities until just before half-time when Lucas Joao’s header from the centre of the box was superbly saved by Jamie Jones.
0-0 at half-time and Maloney’s men would need to improve in the second half if they were to get the victory they so desperately needed.
The visitors started the second half with much more energy and determination with James McClean volleying over in the first minute before Josh Magennis couldn’t quite get on the end of a Max Power cross and was injured in the process.
Daniel Sinani had to replace the injured Magennis on 51 minutes.
Christ Tiehi drove forward on 52 minutes beating a couple of the Royals defenders before blazing high over the crossbar form the edge of the box.
Thelo Aasgaard replaced Tiehi on 59 minutes as Latics went forward to try to gain the advantage.
Joao went close for the hosts on 64 minutes when his right footed shot from the centre of the box just cleared the top left corner.
Charlie Wyke replaced Ryan Nyambe on 71 minutes as Latics went in search of the breakthrough.
Callum Lang then had a glorious chance to open the scoring when McClean’s cross found him clear in the box but the striker fired straight at Reading keeper Joe Lumley from close range.
It was end-to-end stuff now as the Royals substitute Femi Azeez volleyed narrowly wide following a corner on 77 minutes.
But on 81 minutes Latics made the breakthrough when Hughes headed home from the edge of the six-yard box following McClean’s superb deep cross. There was much jubilation amongst the travelling Tics fans.
Could Latics hold on and take the three points to prolong their season?
Reading pushed forward in search of the equaliser with the referee indicating nine added minutes.
The hosts forced a succession of corners and in the 93rd minute their pressure told. Jones looked to be impeded as he went up to collect a corner but the ball dropped to Meite who forced the ball home from close range.
Latics tried to respond but substitute Sinani’s shot from the centre of the box in the 100th minute was just too high and they now have to return to League One for next season.
This was another spirited display by Maloney’s men who have taken seven points from the last three games. This relegation has not been caused by former manager Leam Richardson or current manager Shaun Maloney but by decisions taken in the boardroom.
Latics made a good start to their Championship campaign in August/September but went through a rocky period in October/November and the owners panicked, unceremoniously sacking Leam Richardson and appointing the untried Kolo Toure in his place. The appointment of ‘big name’ Toure was an unmitigated disaster and Latics didn’t manage a win in nine games conceding 17 goals.
During this period the owners also failed to pay the players’ wages on time and this continued on five occasions resulting in a damaging three point penalty from the EFL. Morale amongst the players and staff was inevitably affected.
The appointment of Shaun Maloney was the only bright spot in an unmitigatedly depressing period in which it looked like the club might go into administration again.
However, the owners managed to sell a property in London and have started to pay the players on time promising to run the club sustainably in the future. Only time will tell if they can run the club properly, but this relegation was clearly a result of bad management and the owner Abdulrahman Al Jasmi and Chairman Talal Al Hammad must take responsibility for it.
Post match comments
Speaking afterwards Shaun Maloney expressed his sadness after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Reading confirmed Latics’ return to League One.
Maloney was naturally distraught to see Latics drop back into the third tier, but he thanked his players for giving him everything both today and throughout his time to date at the DW Stadium.
“It’s hugely disappointing,” he said.
“It’s a very difficult time, and I thought the players gave me everything – as they have done in the other 17 games (during my time here).
“There were moments in the first half where we had to defend, and we knew they were going to come for us, as they had a full house.
“The way the players played in the second half was excellent, and I want to say a massive thank you to the players for what they’ve given me in the last 17 games.
“I know what it is [the table and form] compared to the rest of the league, but the reality of the task was just too big for us. Off the pitch has had an impact on us and a lot of things have happened, but I love the job here and I love the people that watch us play and the players have given me everything.”
After the full-time whistle, there was a real touching moment as the fans showed their appreciation to the travelling Tics. Chants of ‘We’re Wigan Till We Die’ echoed from the away end, and Maloney expressed that the supporters are a credit to the Football Club for the way they have conducted themselves throughout the last few years.
“I am just devastated for our players and the people that come to watch us,” he said.
“They are a credit to this Club – not just today, but what we’ve been through over the past few years.
“It’s a special bunch of people and I really appreciate them. I know it’s not easy travelling to watch your team up and down the country, so I’m going to dedicate my life to (hopefully) give them (some) good times.
“They know what type of person I am and I am going to give everything to make sure we never have a season like this again, on and off the pitch.”
Your headline is very appropriate for both Wigan and Blackpool. All the best. See you next season.
I suppose it is. Thanks for the feedback this season and see you next season in League One.