Graham Barrow hinted his decision to start Wigan Athletic’s man-of-the-moment Nick Powell on the bench against Cardiff would have been different had he had the benefit of ‘a crystal ball’.
Latics drew another blank - their 14 in 22 home league games - in a must-win against the Bluebirds that all-but confirmed their immediate return to League One, just 12 months after clinching the title under Gary Caldwell.
Their chances of avoiding the drop had only been kept alive by Powell’s recent run of five goals in the last three games off the bench.
But this time the ex-Manchester United man - whose campaign has been wrecked by injury - could not inspire late heroics during another 30-minute cameo.
“After playing the minutes he has without doing the training, he’s been feeling sore with his groin and stuff,” recognised Barrow, when asked had he been tempted to start with Powell.
“I had a chat with the medical people, about whether to start with him or not.
“If I had a crystal ball, and I knew what team Neil Warnock was going with, I could maybe have started with Nick, and he could have won the game before we took him off.
“Their team selection did surprise us, we expected it to be a bit more open from the off, like it was at the end.
“I don’t know...you can be too hard on yourself at times can’t you?
“You almost felt with the time he was on the pitch it was going to happen.
“It looked like maybe ((Ryan) Tunnicliffe might do it, or (Ryan) Colclough at the end - because Nick was on the pitch.
“It’s not just all about Nick, but even he had a chance that he couldn’t quite take.”
Wigan’s desperation was such that 6’7 centre-back Dan Burn played centre-forward for the last 10 minutes, in a desperate attempt to make something happen.
“It was a final roll of the dice, but I think it showed why I have been reluctant to do that at times,” Barrow acknowledged.
“All you end up doing is kicking the ball long up the middle, but I just felt we had to try something.
“Somebody told me about what was happening elsewhere, and I just thought we needed to throw the kitchen sink at it.
“To be honest, the only thing I’m disappointed about is the result.
“That’s probably as good a 90 minutes as we’ve played for quite a while.
“I think we’ve played well in spells, both since I’ve been in charge and all season.
“But certainly from start to finish, it was as good as we’ve played.
“If I’m being brutally honest, I thought we missed our opportunity in the first 20-25 minutes, by not being that little bit more ruthless.
“That’s the only thing I can fault about the performance.
“We had a right go, we had a penalty shout, but I can’t complain about the application of the players.
“I’m not trying to escape anything but, since I’ve been in charge, we’ve never been in charge of our own destiny.
“I wanted to get in control of that, but we haven’t managed to do that.
“The really disappointing thing was this was a real opportunity lost.”
Goalkeeper Matt Gilks, recalled to the side following Jakob Haugaard’s injury, hardly touched the ball in the 90 minutes, with the Bluebirds’ only real chances coming when Craig Noone fired against the bar in the first half, and Aron Gunnarsson headed just wide after the break.
“The back four, after the disappointment of Brighton, certainly got their act together,” added Barrow.
“Gilksy did well, and I think if we’d had a few more of these performances through the year, we wouldn’t be in the trouble we’re in.
“The trouble we’re in isn’t really about today - we’ve been trying to get ourselves out of the situation in which we’ve found ourselves.
“I was really pleased with the decisions we made today.
“I was pleased with most of them, the changes we made.
“There’s plenty to be encouraged by for the future.”