LATICS 0 BURTON ALBION 1Latics went down by a solitary goal on a frustrating night at the DW Stadium, losing for the first time at home this season.
In driving rain, the conditions made it difficult for Gary Caldwell’s team to get their passing game flowing, added to the fact they were facing opponents with the best defensive record in the league. It was easy to see why, they were organised and disciplined and gave little away.
They scored with one of their rare attempts on goal, a clinical breakaway in the second half and Latics were not able to find a way through. The closest they came was a superbly blocked late shot from Max Power, with Reece James smashing the rebound against the upright.
Latics went into the game unchanged, Michael Jacobs having shrugged off the knee injury which forced him off in the early stages of the victory over Shrewsbury on Saturday.
Caldwell’s men started the game at breakneck speed, Yanic Wildschut careering down the left wing with barely a minute played and squared to Tim Chow on the edge of the Burton box, but he failed to make a connection. James then launched another run on the same side which ended with Alex Revell being upended, and Jacobs fired in a dangerous free-kick.
The game settled down and although most of the match was still played in the Burton half, the visitors settled and gradually came into the contest, working hard to close down Latics in midfield and force errors but only rarely venturing forwards.
But Latics kept knocking at the door and Wildschut had an opportunity just after the half hour mark, when he collected the ball outside his own area as Burton had come out forwards and he ran almost the full length of the pitch, just showing too much of the ball to John Mousinho as he was about to shoot. Then neat interplay between Wildschut and Revell led to Jacobs trying his luck from 20 yards with a dipping effort that curled just over.
The second half started in much the same way as the first with Latics pressing, Chow just unable to reach a Wildschut cross at the far post. Jacobs then fired in a viciously curling free kick from a tight angle that was cleared off the line but the Burton backline held firm. Jacobs and James then forced three corners in quick succession, but still there was no way through. Another dangerous move down the left ended with Wildschut running into traffic in the box, before Revell floated in a cross but no one was there to take advantage.
An hour gone and it was all Latics, but without an end product. Caldwell replaced Revell with Craig Davies in an attempt to find the right formula but still there was no way through and it was on a counter attack that the visitors scored.
Power tried to find room to shoot on the edge of the box but was crowded out and Timmy Thiele broke away at pace, eventually squaring to Abdenasser El Khayati, unmarked, who slotted home.
Latics immediately replaced Jacobs and Craig Morgan with Will Grigg and Francisco Junior and against the meanest defence in the division, it was now a huge challenge lying ahead.
But Caldwell’s team do not give up, that has been a hallmark of this season, and still they kept coming, albeit now against a team who were quite content to sit and soak up pressure.
Power looked to have finally broken through on 84 minutes when the ball fell to him near the penalty spot but the shot was somehow blocked, the ball fell to James but his angled drive came back off the post. Agony for Latics.
With seven minutes additional time signalled, there was still time and Wildschut drove a dangerous ball in the box that was cleared but that was to be it and as Latics threw men forwards in an attempt to find the breakthrough, Burton had chances to extend their lead.