A recurrence of Gavin Massey’s hamstring damage capped a miserable start to 2019 for Wigan Athletic as Sheffield United won 3-0 at the DW Stadium.
The winger was making only his third start since a four-month lay-off, but pulled up lame in the second period.
And Latics boss Paul Cook could not hide his disappointment at the prospect of losing one of the key members of last season’s League One title-winning side for another chunk of the campaign.
“We think it’s his hamstring again, the same one, and it’s a massive blow for us,” mused Cook.
“I don’t know the extent yet but we just have to knuckle down.”
Latics have won only one of their last 13 matches - a run that’s seen them drop to 19th position in the Championship - four points above the drop zone.
They could and should have led against the promotion-chasing Blades, only for Lee Evans to come up with an astonishing miss from right in front of goal.
David McGoldrick put the visitors ahead shortly after, and second-half goals from Mark Duffy and Billy Sharp rubbing salt into Wigan wounds.
“I’ve never been on a run like this in my lifetime as a manager,” assessed Cook. “But then again I’ve never managed in this league before.
“It’s up to me to look for solutions within the dressing room.
“This league is everything everyone said it would be.
“For us the challenge is there for us - and if we want to retain our status, we must find a way.
“I thought the first half was going the way we all wanted it to.
“In my opinion there was nothing between the two teams, very fine margins in the game, but this is what’s happening to us at the moment.
“Things are going against us at both ends of the pitch which are massively important.
“We have a great chance at one end, and suddenly we find ourselves going into the break 1-0 down.
“The game went away from us quite quickly in the second half, thanks to some devastating finishing from Sheffield United.
“You have to give them a lot of credit, they a fine team, but it’s just not going for us at the minute.”