Wigan Athletic 1-1 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 23rd Feb 2019 17:19
Former Blue Joe Garner netted an injury time equaliser to deny 10-man Town victory at Wigan. Will Keane’s 32nd-minute penalty had given the Blues a 1-0 half-time lead, seven minutes after Jonas Knudsen had been red-carded but sub Garner slid in the late leveller to break Town hearts and keep them nine points from safety at the bottom of the table.
Skipper Luke Chambers returned as the Blues switched to a 3-5-2 system for the first time under Paul Lambert’s management.
Chambers, who had been out with a foot injury, started in the back three with Knudsen and Matthew Pennington, while Myles Kenlock and James Bree were wing-backs.
Teddy Bishop dropped out of the 18 having been ill earlier week, although the 22-year-old did travel, with Trevoh Chalobah, Jon Nolan and Alan Judge in midfield. Collin Quaner and Keane were the front two.
Cole Skuse was on the bench for the second game running and Flynn Downes was also among the subs having not been involved in last week’s 1-1 draw with Stoke having been unwell last week.
For Wigan, Danny Fox and Lee Evans returned to their XI with Cedric Kipre dropping to the bench and Nathan Byrne not in the matchday squad. Ex-Town striker Garner was among the subs, while January Blues target Anthony Pilkington started.
The Blues, wearing their orange away kit and with two-match touchline-banned manager Paul Lambert sitting in the directors’ box next to general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill and in front of owner Marcus Evans, were threatened for the first time in the second minute when Pilkington headed Michael Jacobs’s left-sided cross over the bar ahead of Bartosz Bialkowski as the keeper sought to catch.
Within a minute Keane claimed a penalty at the other end after going to ground under pressure from a number of Wigan defenders. Premier League referee Lee Probert wasn’t interested however.
Town might well have taken the lead in the eighth minute when Bialkowski kicked long, Keane took the ball down and fed Bree to his right. The on-loan Aston Villa man crossed to Nolan, who was unmarked at the back of the box but the ex-Shrewsbury’s man’s header bounced the wrong side of Latics keeper Jamie Jones’s right post.
A minute later, Wigan threatened. Lee Evans whipped over a low cross from the right which flew just beyond striker Leon Clarke and past Bialkowski’s right post.
Town nearly created an opening in the 11th minute when Bree, who was causing Wigan more than a few problems down the Town right, crossed and found Judge breaking into the area but the Irishman’s control with his chest took the ball away from him and out of play. Ahead of the goalkick, Wigan’s Kal Naismith was booked for an earlier foul on Judge.
Pilkington saw a shot blocked, then on 17 another neat Town move down the right ended with Keane hitting a low curling effort from just outside the box which Jones palmed for a corner, although the ball looked to be going wide in any case.
The Blues were started to assert their control and in the 21st minute Chalobah, watched from the directors’ box by England U20s coach Paul Simpson, shot from the edge of the box and Jones again pawed it wide when it was already going past the post.
From the resultant corner Town, who were getting up a significant head of steam, went even closer. Judge’s flag-kick was flicked on by Quaner and hit Keane at the far post and bounced through to Jones with the striker holding his head in his hands.
However, the Blues were dealt a huge blow in the 26th minute when they were reduced to 10 men after Knudsen was shown a straight red card.
Clarke had been found in space towards the Wigan right by Samy Morsy’s long pass and was breaking towards the area when Knudsen somewhat needlessly pulled him back.
Referee Probert immediately pulled out his red card, which seemed a harsh decision with the on-loan Sheffield United man still having a lot to do before the incident could be deemed an obvious goalscoring opportunity and with Chambers in a position to get across to cover.
Knudsen, sent off for the first time since his Esbjerg fB days, made his thoughts known to the official before trudging off towards the tunnel and the Blues found themselves under pressure following the freekick, Naismith’s set piece itself hitting the wall and flying over.
The Blues were forced to repel a number of corners, while a Josh Windass strike was blocked on the edge of the box.
However, Town eventually managed to escape and in the 32nd minute they went in front from the penalty spot.
Quaner chased a high ball over the top to the left of the box and was tripped by Chey Dunkley. Referee Probert pointed straight to the spot and Keane hit a low penalty to Jones’s right which struck the inside of the post before rebounding across the goal and nestling in the opposite side-net. The on-loan Hull City man gleefully celebrated his third goal for the Blues.
Having gone ahead, 10-man Town dug-in as Wigan looked to break them down, however, without too much success and with their fans starting to show their frustrations.
In injury time Reece James’s cross from the right was headed over by Windass and Town were able to frustrate the Latics until the whistle, which was the trigger for loud boos from the home supporters.
Town had been well on top and starting to create very decent opportunities when Knudsen was red-carded.
It looked an overreaction from referee Probert with Clarke probably not in what could be viewed as an obvious goalscoring opportunity given his distance from goal and Chambers’s position, however, it was an injudicious pull by the Danish international at best.
The Blues were subsequently forced to dig in and when they did get forward forced the foul for the penalty, which Keane took confidently.
Ahead of what was set to be a big half for 10-man Town, manager Lambert, who was allowed to carry out his team-talk in the dressing room despite his touchline ban, swapped Quaner for Gwion Edwards with the Blues in a 4-4-1 system with Keane the lone striker.
Two minutes after the restart Pennington headed a Judge freekick from the right wide at the far post.
Town were more on the front foot in the early stages of the second half than they had been towards the end of the first. On 50 Judge payed a ball for Keane to chase into the area but Jones came out well to block at the striker’s feet.
However, Wigan began to see most of the ball and in the 52nd minute might have levelled. Naismith crossed from the left and the unmarked Pilkington headed miles wide when he should certainly have hit the target.
The pressure was starting to grow and on 55 Naismith again crossed from the left and Clarke and Windass both somehow failed to reach it inside the six-yard box.
A minute later Pennington was booked for a somewhat cynical chop on James but having moments earlier, as he broke forward into the Latics half, been felled by Dunkley with few of referee Probert’s decisions seeming to go in Town’s favour.
Wigan were repeatedly giving the ball away, much their fans’ annoyance, and on 58 the Blues almost profited, Keane working Judge into space on the left but the former Brentford man’s curling effort looped well wide.
Town threatened again just before the hour mark with a patient move down the right eventually seeing Judge hit a powerful shot from an angle which Jones tipped over.
From the resultant corner Wigan broke quickly and probably should have equalised. Naismith made a clever run into the right channel and crossed low for Clarke at the far post but the striker somehow diverted it the wrong side of the post.
Immediately Latics boss Paul Cook made a double change, switching Dunkley and Pilkington for Nick Powell and Callum McManaman.
Three minutes later, in the 64th minute, the Blues were forced into their second change of the afternoon with Kayden Jackson replacing Keane, who looked to have suffered a hamstring injury.
Morsy was booked for a nasty-looking late challenge on the back of Judge’s ankle in the 67th minute, which the midfielder clearly thought was deliberate.
Wigan were by now seeing most of the ball and were occasionally finding their way through the Blues’ backline. On 69 Jacobs got round the back and cut the ball back from the left but Clarke again sent the ball the wrong side of the post.
Town quickly broke forward to the other end and Jackson did well to lay the ball back to Edwards from the right but the ex-Peterborough winger scuffed his shot.
On 72 James hit a well-struck 25-yard freekick straight at Bialkowski, then Kenlock was booked for a foul on McManaman on halfway having been played into trouble by Pennington.
Two minutes later Judge brilliantly blocked from Windass on the edge of the box, then Naismith blazed over with the pressure on the Blues increasing.
Judge was switched for the more combative Downes for the final 12 minutes while referee Probert dealt with an ongoing spat between Jackson and Danny Fox, the Wigan defender having left the Town striker in a heap with a late challenge missed by the officials a few moments earlier.
With the game by now almost wholly being played in the Town half, Windass was replaced by ex-Blue Garner for the final nine minutes.
In the 85th minute Wigan created as good an opportunity as they had in a while, Powell heading James’s cross from the right goalwards but Bialkowski pulled off a save from his top drawer to paw the ball away from goal.
Town’s valiant attempt to hold on to their lead was finally ended as the game moved into injury time and inevitably by Garner, who they sold to Wigan for £1.25 million on deadline in August.
James broke away from Downes on the Wigan right and sent over a low cross which Garner slammed over the line from close range.
The goal and the announcement of six additional minutes led to an increase in the volume from the Latics support, sensing all three points were now possible.
Deep in injury time Edwards burst away on the Town right but shot across the face and well wide and soon after referee Probert ended what had come so close to being a vital victory for the Blues.
Having gained their lead in the first half, the 10 men battled courageously throughout the second and even had opportunities to add to their lead, although found themselves under greater pressure after Keane had been subbed.
Wigan had toiled for the most part and when they had carved out chances Clarke had repeatedly failed to take them.
The Blues looked set to claim the three points they desperately needed to win to give their fading hopes of survival a boost when Garner popped up to break his old team-mates’ hearts with his late goal.
The Town players’ frustration was plain to see after the final whistle as they made their way off having applauded their fans, the manner of their performance while reduced to 10 having deserved the victory, while they had been the better side before the red card.
Town remain nine points plus goal difference from safety with Reading and Rotherham drawing 1-1 at the Madejski Stadium with the Royals at Portman Road next Saturday.
Wigan: Jones, James, Dunkley (Powell 61), Fox, Naismith, Evans, Morsy (c), Pilkington (McManaman 61), Windass (Garner 81), Jacobs, Clarke. Unused: Walton, Gibson, Massey, Kipre.
Town: Bialkowski, Bree, Pennington, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Kenlock, Chalobah, Nolan, Judge (Downes 78), Keane (Jackson 64), Quaner (Edwards 46). Unused: Gerken, Skuse, Jackson, Downes, Nsiala, Dozzell. Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).
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