GARY Caldwell admitted Wigan Athletic did everything but apply ‘that final touch’ as they were forced to settle for a point at Scunthorpe.
Latics hammered the Iron 3-0 in the corresponding fixture at the DW Stadium at the start of the season, but this was one was far more of an even contest.
Caldwell’s men once again once again enjoyed plenty of the ball and created a number of promising attacking opportunities.
But not for the first time this term, they were unable to find a cutting edge in the final third.
Having fallen behind to Luke Williams’ neat volley inside the opening quarter, Latics were level just before half-time when Michael Jacobs found the net from 25 yards.
And despite coming on strong towards the end, the closest the came was when Jacobs and Jason Pearce saw late efforts cleared off the Scunthorpe line.
“I thought it was a hotly-contested game, between two teams who were working really hard to win it,” Caldwell recognised.
“We lost a goal at a bad time in the game, just as we starting to get control.
“When we got our goal back, we managed to get control back and, but for a bit of quality in the final third, we would have won.
“It just wouldn’t drop for us in the second half - we just couldn’t get on the end of the balls we were putting in the box.
“It was a great performance, apart from that final touch that would have won us the game.”
Caldwell singled out Jacobs for particular praise following another cracking performance illuminated by his sixth goal of the campaign.
“It was a fantastic goal from Michael, but more importantly it was a fantastic performance from him,” Caldwell enthused.
“Wherever he popped up on the park he caused them problems.
“He had a real change of pace, and he really put them under pressure.”
The Latics chief had sprung a surprise in his team selection, by leaving out Reece James for the first time in the league this season at the expense of Chris McCann.
“Reece has been fantastic for us this season,” Caldwell acknowledged.
“But we wanted to change the shape on a pitch we knew was very tight.
“We knew we had to be solid, we knew they’d put us under pressure with a lot of long balls, and that was why we went for the big back four.
“The goal we conceded was a bad one defensively, but once we settled down we showed our quality.”
The result gives Latics a festive return of seven points from away games at Barnsley, Fleetwood and Scunthorpe, which Caldwell feels is a more than satisfactory effort ahead of three home games in the space of nine days.
“For any team to play three away games in a row and pick up seven points shows how well we are playing and the confidence we have in each other,” he added.
“We’ve got three home games now at the DW Stadium, which will be massive in terms of shaping our season.
“Gillingham will be a big game on Thursday, they’re second in the league which is a position we’d like to be in - and higher.
“We have to win if we want to close the gap on them, and we’ll be doing everything we can to do that.
“Hopefully the fans will come out in their numbers, and get behind us, and make it a big night at the DW.”