OWEN Coyle believes his side did enough to beat Zulte Waregem after a late goal sealed a 2-1 defeat.
After going the season unbeaten at home, the loss was the second on the bounce following a late suckerpunch to take Latics’ fate in Europe out of their own hands.
In what was an end to end first half, Wigan went off the boil a bit after the break. After taking the lead through Leon Barnett, Thorgan Hazard equalised after mistakes by both James McArthur and Lee Nicholls.
Coyle remained upbeat after the game but admits he was disappointed with the amount of chances his players squandered.
“I thought it was a very good performance from the lads,” he said. “We went 1-0 up and it should have been two or three if truth be told but that has obviously come back to bite us.
“We had the chances to put the game to bed, the young kid has made a mistake that could happen to anybody.
“In the second half we had chances, probably not as many as the first half, over the course we probably deserved to win that game.
“I think they had two shots on target all night, obviously the one for the equaliser and then the boy has hit a wonderful finish late on.
“Having said that, we think could have avoided the build up to it in terms of easy possession in the box. It’s cruel game and that’s what has happened tonight. Again, we need to get out of losing soft goals.
“There’s been a number of games now where we’ve not been as clinical as we should have been. Again, we’re not talking about half chances, we’re talking about gilt-edge chances that should be hitting the back of the net and we’ve paid the price.” Latics must now rely on Rubin Kazan beating Waregem in the final group game while they must travel to Slovenia and beat NK Maribor.
A draw would have left Wigan’s fate in their own hands, while victory would have ensured qualification.
“The thing about tonight is the destiny was in our own hands and that’s what we wanted going into the last match,” added Coyle.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. Having said that we performed very well at a high standard against a team that qualified for the Champions League this year and are well placed to qualify for it again.
“For periods in that game, we made them look very ordinary, such was our domination particularly in the first half. I thought the second half was a lot more even although we had the better opportunities.
“We wanted to win and qualify, that would have been fantastic for the football club.”
Coyle has backed Lee Nicholls to bounce back after his error after the young goalkeeper fumbled Hazard’s shot for Zulte’s first goal.
He has been in impressive form for Latics since stepping in for injured Scott Carson.
“I’m gutted for him,” said Coyle. “He put a lot of effort, endeavour and quality into the game.
“The young kid has been terrific for us since he came in in Scott Carson’s absence with injury. I’ve told him as much as he has made a mistake but he’ll play on Sunday again because that’s the confidence and belief we have in him. We’ll pick him up.”
Coyle has also backed another of his players in Jordi Gomez.
The midfielder was on the end of some jeering from some sections of the home crowd after being substituted in the second half, much to the dismay of his boss.
Coyle said: “Jordi Gomez is a terrific player and that’s why he played. He put so much into the game, his quality was there for everyone to see.
“The supporters, for me, should have seen how good the performance was.”
You’ve got to recognise the quality he is playing against and it’s always easy to come and shot and give individual players abuse but Jordi Gomez continues to look for the ball and be brave on the ball and I like working with him.”