Blackburn 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Sam Morsy
Sam Morsy

Wigan Athletic took another sure step towards an immediate return to League One after losing a massive six-pointer at Blackburn by the only goal.

With stricken manager Warren Joyce making a surprise appearance - sporting an eye patch - just behind the dug-out, stand-in bosses Graham Barrow and Andy Welsh couldn’t prevent Latics slipping to another damaging defeat to a relegation rival.

Marvin Emnes scored the only goal for Rovers, just before the hour mark, with a snap-shot that beat Matt Gilks on his near post.

But the way the Dutchman instantly controlled a long kick downfield from goalkeeper Jason Steele with an arrogant flick of the boot was worthy of winning any match.

The frustrating thing was any further goals were always more likely to come to the home side rather than the out-of-sort visitors.

Indeed, Latics had centre-back Dan Burn to thank for a couple of unbelievable block tackles - one in either half - although it wasn’t enough to inspire those further forward, who hardly forced Steele into anything resembling a save.

The afternoon was compounded with the loss of Wales international Shaun MacDonald, who was stretchered off after only five minutes with suspected knee ligament damage, while midfield partner Sam Morsy will face a two-match ban after picking up his 10th yellow card of the season.

Latics were given a strong hint it would be a long after when Rovers almost opened the scoring inside the opening minute.

Thankfully, Gilks was alert to deal with Liam Feeney’s firmly-hit shot.

There was a long break in play while MacDonald was treated, and eventually stretchered off, which seemed to take the wind out of the Rovers sails.

Latics gradually grew into the game, and threatened the Rovers goal for the first time on 21 minutes, when Michael Jacobs advanced towards the penalty area with menace, only to drag his shot wide of the far post.

Max Power, on for MacDonald, had a lucky escape when he committed the epitome of a tactical foul on the far side to halt an attempted Rovers counter.

However, the ex-Tranmere man - on nine cautions for the campaign - was fortunate to receive only a talking to from referee Jeremy Simpson.

Latics were further worried when Emnes set his sights from 20 yards, only for Burn to come out of nowhere and produce a fabulous block to eradicate the danger.

As half-time approached, Latics began to ask questions, with Omar Bogle leading a five-on-five break, only to shoot tamely from the edge of the area, which annoyed the supporting Power in particular.

With the referee’s whistle in his mouth, Morsy’s shot from the edge of the box appeared to catch a Rovers arm, before looping inches wide of the opposite side of goal from which it started off.

However, the referee awarded only a corner, which was easily cleared.

There was an end-to-end start to the second period, with Bogle seeing a shot blocked by Charlie Mulgrew, before the Rovers defender sent over a corner at the other end which was headed just wide by Darragh Lenihan.

Rovers, sensing a point was as much use to them as it would have been for Latics, showed their intent just before the hour mark when they sent on attackers Danny Graham and Connor Mahoney with a clear brief to win the game.

But before either could touch the ball, Rovers were ahead in any case, when Emnes took delivery of a pinpoint boot downfield by Steele, before advancing to the edge of the box and beating Gilks on his near post with a brilliant finish.

Rovers made their final substitution within seconds, withdrawing the goalscorer and sending on an extra defender to protect what they had.

The onus was clearly on Latics now to show what they had - and once again they came up badly short.

Bogle looked as though he was through on goal before being brought down 25 yards out by Mulgrew for a stonewall yellow card.

There then followed a period of utter carnage, with Latics succeeding at the THIRD attempt to get Will Grigg on to the field alongside Gabriel Obertan.

After the Frenchman had replaced the tiring Jacobs, first Bogle and then Ryan Tunnicliffe’s number were held up - only for both men to be pushed back on to the field as they reached the technical area, to the utter bemusement of everyone inside Ewood Park.

Finally, at the next stop in play, the fourth official succeeded in holding up the right number, with Callum Connolly making way for Grigg, who was seeking his first league goal since September 27.

And credit Latics, they did look a more potent attacking force with last year’s League One Golden Boot winner on the pitch.

Burn ought to have done better when he met Jamie Hanson’s corner with a firm header, only to direct it wide of the mark.

After Burn had made amends by snuffing out a goalbound effort from Graham, the visitors had one more chance to come away with something, only for Hanson to slice a free shot from 12 yards so badly he barely made contact with the ball.

Wigan’s afternoon was summed up with Morsy picking up his 10th booking of the season, triggering an automatic two-match ban, with the majority of the 1,965 away fans leaving the ground fearing the worst after another afternoon that failed to deliver.