Latics miss out in narrow defeat at Walsall.
- Latics edged out in narrow 1-0 at Walsall.
- Flanagan on target for the Saddlers at Lilleshall.
- Latics lose ground on league leaders, but still have games in hand.
WIGAN ATHLETIC 0
Latics were unfortunate to come away with nothing in a close-fought encounter away to Walsall at Lilleshall, dropping to a 1-0 defeat after a bouncing free kick from midfielder Reece Flanagan deceived Owen Evans to provide the title-chasing Saddlers with all three points.
Chances were created by both sides, mainly from set pieces, with Latics going close to an equaliser on a number of occasions. Sam Cosgrove and Jack Hendry had excellent chances in the first half, but were denied by two superb saves by Dan Jezeph. More chances followed throughout the game, but a draw wasn't to be, despite claims for a penalty in the final minute of stoppage time when a clear handball was given as a free kick right on the edge of the area, with Latics adamant that it was inside.
Latics started positively with Louis Robles the intended target for passes from Matty Hamilton and Danny O'Brien, but they were soon under pressure, with Evans denying Rory Oliver twice in seven minutes with a couple of smart saves.
Oliver wriggled free down the right side of the area and shot low to Evans' right, but the keeper stuck out a foot to turn the ball away. The second opportunity saw Oliver free down the right again, with Evans this time pushing the ball away with two hands.
Moments later the keeper fell victim to a slice of bad fortune, when Flanagan's bouncing free kick found it's way over Evans' outstretched arms to find the bottom corner. 1-0 to Walsall.
Latics' attempts to equalise gathered momentum after the half hour mark. Jordan Flores, returning to action after a shoulder injury, found Alex Lingard wide left with a perfect pass, before the full back's cross reached Cosgrove in the middle, his first time effort tipped over the bar by Jezeph.
The keeper was sharp again moments later, this time tipping a header from Hendry over the cross bar from the resulting corner.
Latics delivered a couple of free kicks towards the end of the first half, but Walsall dealt with them well, until the ball dropped for Lingard just inside the area, only for the defender to volley wide of the right post.
Cosgrove and Robles both turned chances wide in the opening stages of the second half, but it was the hosts who went closest to scoring early on, when a cross from the right beat Evans, only for Adam Anson to clear off the line after some excellent covering.
Ten minutes from time Cosgrove almost equalised, but when he found space on the edge of the area to shoot, his effort was deflected agonisingly over the bar.
Latics' final opportunity came in the shape of a free kick down the left edge of the area, a decision which left the players confused when a handball inside the area was given as a free kick outside of it. O'Brien delivered into the area, but Cosgrove could only head over, as Latics were left to travel back to Wigan with nothing.
After the game, coach Peter Atherton shared his thoughts on a disappointing performance:
"We're very disappointed, we didn't pass the ball well enough at all and there were no patterns to our play.
"We did create some good chances and their goalkeeper was forced into a couple of good saves, but overall too many players underperformed on the day.
"When things aren't going well in matches we need to compete better and focus on the basics.
"Sam Cosgrove was the one real positive from the 90 minutes, he competed well and deserves to be praised for it. He got into good positions for our chances, but unfortunately they didn't come off for him."
Walsall: Jezeph, Tonks, K,Roberts, Smith, Preston, Flanagan, Oliver (Peters), Kouhyar (Sangha), Murphy, L.Rowley (Mollett), Kinsella
Unused subs: L.Roberts, K.Rowley
Latics: Evans, O'Brien, Lingard, Burke (Baxendale 45), Anson, Hendry (Barrigan 61), Flores (Merrie 61), Purzycki, Cosgrove, Robles, Hamilton (Beaumont 73)
Unused sub: Absalom