Warren Joyce insisted Wigan Athletic ‘didn’t deserve to lose’ at Fulham, after watching the hosts edge a five-goal thriller with virtually the last kick of the game.
Latics recovered from going one down at Craven Cottage to lead at the break thanks to a Scott Malone own goal and Michael Jacobs’ first goal in nearly six months.
The visitors created, and squandered, a gilt-edged opportunity to make it 3-1 at the start of the second period, when Omar Bogle raced clean through only to be denied by goalkeeper David Button.
And they paid a high price as a cracking goal from Denis Odoi, from a long-range free-kick, levelled matters with 19 minutes to go, before Neeskens Kebano won it with 94 minutes on the clock.
“Obviously I’m bitterly disappointed, because I don’t think we deserved to lose the game,” said Joyce.
“We were comfortable really, until a rush of blood has led to the free-kick for their equaliser.
“It was a silly free-kick to give away, very avoidable, but it was a long way out and I don’t think we needed three in the wall.
“To then concede a 30-yard drive, it’s a poor goal to give away.
“That didn’t rattle us, even though it got their crowd going, and I still think we had good opportunities to score again.
“Obviously the big chance we had was at 2-1, when Bogle did ever so well to turn their lad in the box.
“If he scores there, you’re a lot more comfortable going into the last 20 minutes.
“You’re waiting for the ball to hit the back of the net, and even in the first half he’s made an opportunity for himself, and he could have squared it to Sam Morsy for a tap-in.
“But you’ve got to look at the endeavour, the bravery, the power, the skill, that he’s created two situations for himself out of pretty much nothing.
“I think three points would have made a big difference in the situation we’re in.
“One point maybe doesn’t make so much of a difference, but it does for morale because it shows all the hard work the lads put in doesn’t count for nothing.”
It was a familiar tale of woe for a Latics side that have matched most of the teams in the division this term during the 90 minutes, only to be let down by ‘fine margins’ at both ends of the field.
“If you’ve seen us play all season, it’s not the first time I’ve sat here and said the same thing - it’s almost like ‘Groundhog Day’,” acknowledged the Latics boss.
“I’m talking again about lapses in concentration, fine margins, and late goals, and poor goals at that.
“It’s happened in virtually every game, where there’s been positives, but we’ve not picked up points.
“And that’s the most frustrating bit for me.
“They gave us some problems in the first half, and we knew they would because they’re a clever side who can handle the ball.
“They set you problems that you’ve got to solve, and it was difficult in that first half.
“We also thought we could hurt them in a certain way, and we did - several times.
“A lot of the things in the game-plan worked, but there are a lot of players in this league who have added X-factor quality, and that’s why they get paid the money they do.
“Sometimes they moved us into areas we didn’t want to be in during the first half, and we had to try to counter that in the second half.
“I thought we hurt them in areas we wanted to hurt them, and it was a battle that could have gone either way.”
Wigan’s cause wasn’t helped by the half-time substitution of goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard, who had required lengthy treatment during the first half after a hefty blow early on, with Matt Gilks taking over for the second half.
“I don’t really know what happened with Jakob to be honest,” added Joyce.
“It was right at the end of half-time, the physios and the doctor have come to me and told me he couldn’t go on.
“You’re about to go out for the second half, so it’s a bit of a rush job.
“Obviously it’s difficult for any goalkeeper coming on cold, and you know Matt’s not played anyway for a while.
“I don’t think he did anything wrong, but he’s conceded two goals that he’d be disappointed to concede.
“It’s not very often your goalkeeper goes off - in fact, it’s never happened to me ever before at any level.
“And that’s twice since I’ve come to Wigan...which is another cruel piece of luck.
“We’ve had a few kicks in the teeth now, and all you can do is dust yourself down and go again.”