Paul Cook must have felt like he was in a Wigan-based sequel to the Bill Murray classic ‘Groundhog Day’ at the weekend.
With only three minutes gone, Josh Windass fired a great chance against Aston Villa goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic.
Then, at the other end, a mix-up between Jamie Jones and Cedric Kipre saw in-form Tammy Abraham – 12 goals in his previous 10 matches – presented with a gilt-edged opportunity to open the scoring.
But as the whole of the DW Stadium expected the net to bulge, the ball instead flew of Abraham’s trusty right foot...and into the smattering of Latics fans congregated in the South Stand.
And with it, Cook may have started to believe his side’s run of misfortune – which he’d called a ‘destructive pattern’ – was in the past.
That belief would have been underlined by 5pm, when goals from Gary Roberts, Michael Jacobs and Joe Garner had given Latics their first win in nine matches.
A victory just as emphatic as their previous three points – the 3-1 triumph over Blackburn on November 28.
Since then, Latics have played well for parts of most of the games, but been harshly punished for mistakes at both ends.
Now, hopefully with the monkey off their back, they can look forward with optimism – up, rather than down, the Championship table.
Despite the doom and gloom of late, Latics have never been in the bottom three all season.
Yes, their form has dipped in recent months, but that has coincided with their forward line being ripped out.
But with Jacobs back at the weekend, Nick Powell having returned to full training and Gavin Massey nearing a comeback, that should also mean Will Grigg being reintroduced to the picture.
Cook and Latics will feel they belong several rungs up the league ladder.
But with back-to-back trips to Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest up next, they’ll have to improve their woeful form on the road to fulfil that promise.
While most Latics fans were still making their way home from the DW Stadium on Saturday, the club’s Under-18s were advancing to the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup in style after thrashing Hull 6-2 on their own patch.
England youth star Joe Gelhardt was again the hero, with a brilliant hat-trick.
Yet more evidence of the fabulous work being done behind the scenes by Gregor Rioch, Mike Hurn and the rest of the coaches.
The dangers of posting throwaway comments on social media...
Latics fan Keiran Crompton posted before the Aston Villa game that he would sign up for this year’s Walk4Joseph to Leeds in April if his side were victorious.
“If Latics win by three goals,” he added, “I’ll do the walk backwards.”
And after spending much of this week being interviewed by various regional and national media outlets, it’s just sinking in what he’s got himself into!
More than 50 Latics fans have already signed up for the three-day trek, for the Good Friday clash at Elland Road.
Fans can get involved for one, two or all three days – for further details email firstname.lastname@example.org
Organisers are hopeful of topping even last season’s incredible ‘Walk to Fleetwood – which saw more than 100 Latics fans raise more than £36,000 for the Joseph’s Goal charity, raising vital funds towards a cure for NKH.
It’s becoming increasingly hard for clubs like Latics to compete against the big boys with the sums involved in football these days. But there is still value to be had in the market...such as Anthony Pilkington.
The free transfer arrival from Cardiff City hadn’t played a single minute this term prior to his Latics debut at the weekend. But after a sparkling showing – illuminated by a spectacular assist for the opening goal against Aston Villa – Paul Cook looks to have pulled a real rabbit out of the hat.
Latics won for the first time in nine matches at the weekend.
Both on Saturday against Aston Villa, and againat Blackburn on November 28, Gary Roberts scored the opening goal.
Too many times this season, Latics have paid a high price for failing to get their noses in front, and been punished at the other end.
The importance of the first goal is there in black and white – Latics have won only one point (the 1-1 draw at Bolton last month) after falling behind.
And the importance of the evergreen Roberts is just as stark.
No wonder Paul Cook is hoping to extend his deal beyond the end of the campaign.