REPORT: WIGAN ATHLETIC 1 MIDDLESBROUGH 1Wigan Athletic ensured that Malky Mackay’s tenure got off to a positive start, by earning a point against high flying Middlesbrough in an entertaining tie at the DW Stadium.
Latics had their chances to steal all three points after Shaun Maloney’s excellent free kick was cancelled out by Patrick Bamford, hitting the woodwork in either half and having a host of other opportunities.
New manager Malky Mackay opted to make four changes from the side which lost the local derby away at Bolton, with Ivan Ramis, Andrew Taylor, Chris McCann and club captain Emmerson Boyce coming in for Perch, Kiernan, Figueroa and Huws.
The selection of Chris McCann was particularly significant, with the midfielder making his first start in eight months after returning from a long term injury sustained in March. The game also saw the return of skipper Emmerson Boyce, who had also been ruled out through injury.
It was a frantic start to the game, with both sides attempting to get on the front foot, and whilst it was apparent that Latics were eager to impress their new manager, the visitors were equally as buoyed by the fantastic travelling support, with around 5000 Middlesbrough fans in the North Stand.
Wigan soon found themselves on the front foot however, with Shaun Maloney and the returning Chris McCann catching the eye for the hosts.
Maloney almost ensured Latics made the perfect start in the ninth minute, when his excellent free kick from the edge of the area agonisingly clipped the cross bar on the left hand side of the goal, before landing onto the top netting.
Latics continued to look bright, with first Marc-Antoine Fortune and then Emmerson Boyce having half chances, putting their efforts wide of Dimitrios Konstantpoulos’ goal in the opening twenty minutes.
Malky Mackay did not have to wait too much longer to see his side bag their first goal under his management however, when Maloney broke the deadlock with an inch perfect free kick in the 24th minute.
The Scottish international found himself in an almost identical position to his last effort, and the midfielder made no mistake this time around, expertly guiding the ball into the top left hand corner past a helpless Konstantpoulos to put Wigan Athletic in front.
Middlesbrough began to build their way into the game soon after, and almost stole an equaliser just before the interval, when Kike turned smartly in the area, and curled the ball just wide of Carson’s left hand corner.
The action continued until the whistle, and Latics came agonisingly close to bagging a second in added time, when Maloney’s cross from a free kick was punched away by the keeper to Adam Forshaw on the edge of the area, who volleyed just wide of the left hand post, meaning that Latics had just the one goal advantage at the interval.
Wigan began the second half in a similar vein, and could have doubled their advantage on two occasions within ten minutes of the restart, with first Leon Barnett and then Fortune miss-kicking their efforts when in good positions to fire the ball wide and away from the visitors’ goal.
Middlesbrough were soon level however, through substitute Patrick Bamford in the 57th minute. The visitors broke away smartly from a Latics attack and the ball found its way to Bamford on the left hand side of the area, who finished coolly past Scott Carson to level the contest.
Latics responded brilliantly to being pegged back, and almost retook the lead six minutes later, through a fantastic team move.
Captain Emmerson Boyce’s cross was headed down by Fortune to McManaman, who was brought down in the area trying to get his shot away, before the ball finally fell at the feet of McCann, who fired the ball narrowly over the bar from the edge of the area.
Wigan continued to look for a breakthrough and again came very close to finding a winner twenty minutes from time, when Maloney’s corner was met by Leon Barnett, who volleyed the ball square onto the post from close range.
Both sides continued to press in the closing stages, with Middlesbrough applying strong pressure in the dying minutes, but Latics held on to ensure Malky Mackay started his reign as boss with a well earned point.