Latics taste cruel defeat on return to the Championship.
- Latics fall to opening day 2-1 defeat in 90th minute at Bristol City.
- Alex Gilbey on target on club debut to put Latics ahead.
- Tammy Abraham on loan from Chelsea and Bobby Reid win it for hosts.
BRISTOL CITY 2
WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
Latics were dealt a cruel blow in their welcome back to the Sky Bet Championship after Bobby Reid's deflected effort gave Bristol City a 90th minute 2-1 victory at Ashton Gate, following Tammy Abraham's equaliser despite Alex Gilbey giving Latics the lead on his debut in the first half.
The opening 45 minutes had Latics in control midway through the half when Gilbey finished off a devastating counter attack with Yanic Wildschut, but the Robins put the pressure on Gary Caldwell's side for the majority of the second half, paying off for the hosts through Chelsea loanee Abraham and fellow substitute Reid.
Latics handed out five debuts on their return to the second tier, with summer signings Gilbey, Adam Bogdan, Jake Buxton and Dan Burn all in the starting XI, alongside 18-year-old Academy graduate and former Under 18 captain Luke Burke, making his first competitive appearance having been with the club since the age of 13.
It was a gritty opening spell which saw Bristol City danger man Jonathan Kodjia drag an early shot wide, with Wildschut almost immediately hitting the side netting, but signs of Latics' desire to make an impact could be seen from the early stages.
Debutants Burke, Buxton and Burn worked hard with skipper Craig Morgan and permanent summer recruit Stephen Warnock to keep out Kodjia and the expressive wide play of Callum O'Dowda and Lee Tomlin.
At the other end, former Colchester United midfielder Gilbey was making waves, rounding of a sweeping Latics move from right to left by narrowly striking over former Latics goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell's cross bar, before Will Grigg saw the headlines down the right side, only for a last ditch block to deny him a goal scoring return to competitive action.
Gilbey, along with Max Power, Grigg and Wildschut continued to irritate the hosts' midfield and defence, and with 32 minutes on the clock he achieved his aim.
Wildschut, typically powerful down the left, barged his way up the wing on the counter attack, before stalling to slide the ball back through the area for Gilbey to delightfully finish into the right corner after a lung-bursting run from deep.
The goal brought about initial pressure as Bristol City tried to grab an equaliser before half time, but Bogdan's calmness and Latics' resilience saw them hold out.
A tough second half awaited Latics, Kodjia a constant threat in the early stages, with full back Joe Bryan carving out the best chance when he drove a low shot towards the bottom left corner, only to be denied by a stretching save from Bogdan.
In a rare second half attack, Wildschut looked like he was going to add to Latics' lead against the run of play, but despite some clever skill to beat two defenders in the area the Dutchman couldn't get a shot away.
With 20 minutes remaining Latics made their first attempt to ease the pressure by replacing Grigg with Michael Jacobs and adding an extra body into the midfield mix, but a flurry of yellow cards followed, first for Burn and David Perkins, and then for second substitute Donervon Daniels just a minute after replacing down the right side.
Nine minutes were left on the clock when Bristol City struck their first blow, a tricky delivery into a crowded penalty area bundled home at close range by debutant Abraham.
Bogdan and his defence were threatened until the very last, but the Hungarian international on loan from Liverpool was pulling off impressive saves to deny the hosts, until Reid's low effort wasn't cleared after an excellent finger-tipped save.
The ball remained active inside the penalty area and Reid pounced for a second time, a cruel deflection taking it beyond a sprawling Bogdan for the winner, with only stoppage time remaining.
Bristol City: O'Donnell, Ayling, Flint, Magnusson, Bryan, Pack (Reid 67), O'Neil, O'Dowda (Freeman 76), Brownhill (Abraham 67), Tomlin, Kodjia
Unused Subs: O'Leary, Williams, Matthews, Wilbraham
Latics: Bogdan, Buxton, Perkins, Power, Gilbey, Grigg (Jacobs 70), Morgan (Capt), Warnock, Burke (Daniels 77), Wildschut (Colclough 85), Burn
Unused Subs: Jaaskelainen, Morsy, Chow, Barrigan