Latics 2 Doncaster 2

Wigan goalscorer Shaun Maloney
Wigan goalscorer Shaun Maloney

LEON Barnett popped up with a last-gasp leveller as Latics rescued a point against Doncaster.

Latics had looked dead and buried as they trailed 2-0 at the break, and they dodged a bullet when Rovers hit the woodwork within three minutes of the restart.

But the let-off seemed the energise the home side, who pulled one back through Shaun Maloney’s wicked free-kick.

And with just a minute of the 90 remaining, Latics dragged themselves level when Marc-Antoine Fortune’s cross was crashed in by Barnett.

There was injury-time drama when Rovers substitute Billy Paynter hit the bar with his first touch, but Latics couldn’t quite fashion a third goal to win it.

The result stops the rot after back-to-back defeats against Manchester United and Bournemouth, but leaves Wigan five points off the pace in the Championship.

Owen Coyle had made two changes to the side that lost at Bournemouth, Chris McCann and James McClean in for James McArthur and Jean Beausejour.

And the home side came flying out of the blocks as they tried to get their home campaign off to a positive start.

A Ben Watson free-kick towards Barnett was touched away from the Wigan defender by Ross Turnbull, while Stephen Crainey’s cross was headed just over by Grant Holt.

Doncaster threatened for the first time on 13 minutes, and they very nearly took a shock lead.

James Husband’s cross from the left was missed by Scott Carson, and the header from Chris Brown looped just past the post with the goal gaping.

Encouraged by the let-off, Wigan resumed control of the game and neat play involving Maloney and James McCarthy released Emmerson Boyce.

The cross was well-met by Holt, but Turnbull pulled off a decent save.

Latics were claiming a penalty moments later when Holt was bundled off the ball by Reece Wabara as he tried to get on the end of Maloney’s cross, but the official was unimpressed.

Holt’s flick was then taken by McCann in his stride, and the ex-Burnley skipper would have marked his debut with a goal only for a brilliant save by Turnbull.

Latics came even close midway through the first half when Maloney attempted a cheeky shot from wide on the right wing and saw his effort strike the near post with Turnbull scrambling across.

Just as was the case at Bournemouth at the weekend, Latics then paid the penalty for not taking their chances by falling behind.

There were four defenders around Theo Robinson when he received the ball, but the midfielder was allowed to turn and fired low past Carson on his near post.

Maloney did well to get Boyce away at the other end, but the skipper’s shot was blocked by the goalkeeper’s legs and away to safety.

And the uphill struggle facing Latics became a mountain five minutes before the break.

Holt thought he’d been fouled on the near touchline, but the referee waved play on.

Doncaster pushed forward in numbers, and Bongani Khumalo’s cross was headed back by Rob Jones and past Carson by Brown.

Wigan’s attempts to pull one back before the break were thwarted when Holt fired against a defender and then wide of the post, while Watson fired high and wide from a good position.

Latics made a change at the interval, Watson the man to make way for Fortune.

But their difficult task nearly became mission impossible within three minutes of the restart when ex-Latic David Cotterill’s cross was headed against the post by Khumalo with Carson beaten.

Latics then did well to clear another couple of dangerous Doncaster deliveries, before they gave themselves a lifeline from a very familiar source.

Fortune was fouled on the edge of the area, and Maloney’s free-kick was over the wall and past Turnbull before the goalkeeper could move.

McClean’s cross then narrowly failed to find Holt, before the Irishman was replaced by Beausejour for the final half-hour.

The Chilean’s first touch saw his cross headed wide by Holt, his next effort being nodded wide by Fortune.

But the visitors were finding themselves sitting deeper and deeper, holding on desperately to what they had.

Their time-wasting tactics didn’t go down well with the official or the home support, and their luck finally ran out with a minute of the 90 remaining.

Fortune was the creator, having wriggled free down the right-hand side.

His cross was low and hard, and met by Barnett who finished superbly to the delight of the crowd.

The former Norwich man was so delighted to notch his second goal in three matches that he ripped his own shirt down the front in the celebrations.

The sight of five added minutes on the fourth official’s board gave hope to a dramatic home winner, but the decider nearly arrived against the run of play at the other end.

The introduction of Billy Paynter appeared to be merely a time-wasting exercise as Rovers tried to shut up shop.

But the striker headed against the bar with his first touch as honours – somehow – ended even.