Reading 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Nick Powell
Nick Powell

Wigan Athletic’s short and not-very-sweet stay in the Championship is over after defeat at Reading confirmed their relegation back to League One.

Latics went into the game requiring a mathematical miracle to avoid an immediate return to the second tier.

But Yann Kermorgant’s goal after only five minutes had them chasing their tails from the off.

And wins elsewhere for relegation rivals Birmingham and Blackburn meant that even a victory wouldn’t have delayed the inevitable.

To be fair to Latics, they gave absolutely everything to get back on level terms, and were undoubtedly the better side against a side that needed a positive result to confirm their own play-off spot.

But man of the moment Nick Powell - making his first start for almost four months - couldn’t take advantage of several chances that came his way.

And Wigan’s misery was completed by an early injury to Shaun MacDonald that saw the Wales international stretchered from the field with a suspected broken leg.

Latics had been two goals down inside five minutes in the corresponding fixture - and they could not have made a worse start in the return.

With barely four minutes on the clock, Kermorgant found himself completely unmarked as he headed home Garath McCleary’s right-wing cross.

Latics suffered another kick to the guts on 10 minutes when MacDonald was the victim of an awful-looking challenge in centre-field from George Evans.

The ex-Bournemouth man was treated on the field for fully 10 minutes before being driven off the field on a motorised stretcher - with an oxygen mask - bound for hospital.

To add insult to injury, the referee elected only to award a yellow card to Evans, with several of the Wigan players feeling it might have been red.

Credit to Latics, they settled back into their stride, and were the better side for the remainder of the half.

After a Kermorgant shot had been superbly blocked by Dan Burn, Latics completely took charge of the game.

Michael Jacobs fired wide from a good position, before a Powell shot from the edge of the box was touched around the post by ex-Latics star Ali Al Habsi.

Powell had an even better chance on the half-hour mark when, after good work from Burn down the left, the ball fell to the ex-Manchester United man 15 yards from goal.

However, Wigan’s top scorer lashed at the ball, which sailed miles over the top of Al Habsi’s bar.

Powell was then only inches away from getting his foot to a Jamie Hanson corner, with the home defence again stretched and only just managing to slice away a Burn cross.

A lightning-fast counter from Latics on the 35-mark again ripped open the Reading defence.

Ryan Tunnicliffe’s cross from the left, with the outside of his right foot, was a beauty, and Powell’s header brought a good save from Al Habsi at full stretch.

Powell then lashed into the side-netting as Latics looked for a leveller before half-time, although they were forced into a second change in the fifth of nine added minutes when Reece Burke limped off, to be replaced by Callum Connolly.

The new man was immediately into the action, providing an inch-perfect cross from the right that Powell couldn’t quite get on the end of.

Latics picked up where they’d left off after the restart, with Hanson finding Connolly totally unmarked at the far post.

However, the on-loan Everton man’s header was poor and found only the side-netting on the near post.

Hanson might have done better himself moments later when he was the man left in acres, only to get caught between shooting for goal and crossing the ball - and firing a cross miles over the heads of the support.

As the hour mark approached, Jacobs was only inches away from connecting from a cross, before Powell wriggled through down the right channel only to pull his shot past Al Habsi’s far post.

Max Power - on for MacDonald - might have done better with another shooting opportunity from distance, before Latics went all in and threw on the fit-again Omar Bogle for the tiring Powell.

As Latics committed more and more men forward, they were obviously leaving gaps at the back for the Royals to exploit,

And substitute Lewis Grabban almost made it 2-0 in the closing stages, only to drag his left-foot shot past Matt Gilks’ left-hand post.