Doncaster 3 Wigan Athletic 1

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

Wigan Athletic suffered a shock first defeat in 21 matches as struggling Doncaster gave themselves a relegation lifeline with a 3-1 victory at the Keepmoat.

The visitors looked collectively off the pace right from the off, and were perhaps fortunate to hold a half-time lead through Will Grigg’s 24th goal of the season.

Grigg was in the right place at the right time on 41 minutes to supply a clinical header after Yanic Wildschut had carried the ball half the length of the pitch.

However, two goals from Rovers centre-back Andy Butler - a header and a volley from two pinpoint Gary McSheffrey corners - in the space of four minutes shortly after the restart gave the scoreline a more accurate look.

And Wigan’s misery was compounded with two minutes left when McSheffrey raced through and was tripped in the penalty area by last man David Perkins.

After the Latics midfielder was shown a straight red card - which rules him out of Tuesday’s trip to second-placed Burton - Andy Williams completed a famous win with an emphatic spot-kick.

Having warned his men in the week of taking Rovers - without a win since January 2 - lightly, boss Gary Caldwell will have been furious with the way Latics started the game.

Several players were guilty of looking off the pace, being both wasteful in possession and slow to close down the ball.

Doncaster threatened in the opening skirmishes, and Williams was only inches away from getting on the end of a delicious free-kick from McSheffrey.

At the other end, Latics came close when Grigg headed just wide from a Max Power corner.

Wigan’s top scorer looked like he could be in again moments later, only for Wildschut’s cross to elude him.

Wildschut then shot wide as Latics attempted to turn the screw, but the home side soon regained the initiative and pushed the visitors further and further back.

Tommy Rowe sent over a cross that flashed only just in front of Williams at the near post, before McSheffrey fired just over the top of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s goal.

Wigan’s unease was shown five minutes before the break, when Conor McAleny was hooked to make way for Michael Jacobs, despite showing no signs of an injury.

But as Doncaster looked for the all-important goal to take into the interval, it was Latics who hit them with the perfect sucker-punch.

Wildschut picked up the ball deep inside Latics territory - and got his head down and ran and ran.

Just as it looked like he’d over-run the ball and veered too far out right, the Dutchman crossed back inside for Grigg to nod into the far corner.

Doncaster boss Darren Ferguson had a big job on his hands to get his low-on-confidence outfit in the right frame of mind for the second half.

But whatever he said had a massive effect as they threw everything at Latics after the restart.

A Rowe cross was inviting and saw McSheffrey’s header deflect off Jason Pearce and over the top.

Pearce was the Latics hero again seconds later when he headed Craig Alcock’s effort off the line with Jaaskelainen well beaten.

But the respite was only temporary as, from the resulting corner from McSheffrey, Butler got the better of Donervon Daniels far too easily and somehow squeezed his header past Jaaskelainen at the near post.

Four minutes later, it was a virtual carbon-copy, as McSheffrey’s corner again found Butler, who this time volleyed past Jaaskelainen from close range at the far post.

And it was almost three within a flash when Williams headed inches wide from another superb McSheffrey corner.

Having been on the ropes for a good 20 minutes, Latics managed to get back on the front foot heading into the final quarter.

Sam Morsy saw a shot deflected wide, before Wildschut sent a lovely curling shot with his right foot inches wide from the edge of the area.

A nice ball inside the full-back from Jacobs released Wildschut, whose cross was flicked away by the legs of Rovers goalkeeper Remi Matthews.

Wildschut then repaid the favour to Jacobs, whose left-foot shot was deflected wide, with Power also unable to hit the target from a good position.

Rather than dig their heels in and defend their narrow advantage, the home side continued to take the game to Latics and push for a killer third goal.

A McSheffrey cross was fired over by substitute Riccardo Calder at the far post, but they weren’t to be denied with No.3 arriving two minutes from time.

With Latics committing too many men forward in search of a leveller, they were easily picked off as McSheffrey got goal-side of Perkins and entered the penalty area.

Perkins had little option other than to bring down his man, and accept the inevitable red card that came his way.

And Williams’ emphatic spot-kick summed up the Doncaster performance on a day they simply had to win, and deservedly did so - ending Wigan’s proud unbeaten away record stretching back all the way to September 12.