Rotherham 3 Wigan Athletic 2

Jordi Gomez
Jordi Gomez

A catastrophic first-half performance, during which rock-bottom Rotherham scored three goals and could have easily had three more, ensured Wigan Athletic crashed to a devastating defeat in the big relegation six-pointer at the foot of the Championship.

Despite the Millers having only 10 points on the board all season, they were deserved victors over a Latics side that, for long periods, looked as though they’d never met each other prior to kick-off.

Aimen Belaid opened the scoring with only seven minutes gone, with Danny Ward making it two just after the half-hour mark.

Only a mixture of the woodwork, poor finishing and the fingertips of Jussi Jaaskelainen prevented further goals in as one-sided an opening 45 minutes as could be imagined.

However, two minutes into added time at the end of the half, number three duly arrived when Jaaskelainen could only parry a shot from Ward into the path of team-mate Dan Burn, who couldn’t prevent the ball finding its way into his own net.

The Wigan players could hardly have argued with the crescendo of boos that sounded from the away end at the interval, having collectively failed to perform.

To their credit, they did at least show some degree of professional pride with a second-half display that, at one stage, amazingly threatened to turn things around.

With Rotherham defending deeper and deeper, goals from Yanic Wildschut and Jordi Gomez reduced the deficit to just one goal with 12 minutes still to go.

And the ball found its way into the Millers net again in stoppage-time, only for the official to whistle for a Wigan handball as the cross came in - to the relief of three-quarters of the stadium.

Despite their efforts in the second 45 minutes, the Latics players will know the game was lost in a woeful first-half offering.

And with half the campaign now gone - and only four wins on the board - they look to have their work cut out to avoid an immediate return to League One.

Latics could scarcely have got off to a worse start at the brilliantly-named ‘New York Stadium’.

With the strains of Frank Sinatra still in the air, the home side threw everything at their opponents from the off.

Tom Adeyemi saw an early shot deflected wide for a Millers corner, which was cleared by the Latics defence.

But from the next corner, the visitors weren’t quite so fortunate, and they found themselves behind.

No-one in green could clear the delivery, resulting in Lee Frecklington swinging his left foot at the ball from 18 yards.

The shot was pulled but merely inadvertently found its way to Belaid at the far post, and he steered it home past Jaaskelainen.

It was almost worse for the visitors only for skipper Stephen Warnock to toe the ball away from Anthony Forde who looked as though he had a tap-in at the far post.

Latics had another escape when Adeyemi curled a delightful shot inches wide of the far post, before the second goal eventually arrived on 32 minutes.

There was more than an element of fortune about it, with Ward seeing his 20-yard shot take a huge deflection off a defender, with the ball completely wrong-footing Jaaskeleinen.

No-one would have argued the goal wasn’t warranted on the balance of play, however, with Latics nowhere near being at the races.

And Wigan’s attempts at a swift response were thwarted when Craig Davies’s clever control and finish were in vain thanks to an offside flag on the near side.

It was almost three when Adeyemi struck the Latics bar with Jaaskelainen again well-beaten, before the same player saw another shot deflected just wide of the target.

Frecklingon snatched at another decent shooting chance when he might have been advised to take an extra touch.

But Latics were finally put out of their misery in the second minute of stoppage-time at the end of the half with a goal that summed up the first-half display.

Ward’s left-foot shot was parried well by Jaaskelainen, but the ball struck Burn in the chest and into the back of the Wigan net.

The chorus of boos from the away end that greeted the half-time whistle were more-than-justified - and the only surprise was that there were no changes in personnel at the break.

Credit Latics for the way they picked up, though, and they had a lifeline within six minutes of the restart.

Wildschut played a lovely give-and-go with Will Grigg, taking the reverse pass and curling the ball into the corner of the Millers net.

That was the signal for Adam Le Fondre to take over from Davies, with the new man being given a fine round of applause by the home fans in recognition of his previous service.

It was pretty much attack-against-defence at this point, and the second goal finally arrived on 78 minutes.

Andy Kellett was getting forward at every opportunity from right-back, and he managed to lay the ball off intelligently to a waiting Gomez.

The finish was low and hard and flew into the bottom corner, leaving the away fans dreaming of a comeback to eclipse even that at Chesterfield last term.

Nathan Byrne took over from Kellett for the last 10 minutes, and the visitors continued to throw everything at their opponents.

The panic in the home defence was apparent when Wildschut raced into the box and not a single red shirt appeared to want to go within tripping distance of the Dutchman.

Wildschut won a corner that was just about cleared, before sending over another teasing cross that only just cleared the far post.

Latics were further heartened by the fourth official’s board showing four added minutes.

But despite forcing the ball over the line from another inviting corner, their celebrations were tempered by the referee’s whistle for handball.