Wigan Athletic 0 Doncaster 0

Chris McCann in action against Doncaster
Chris McCann in action against Doncaster

WIGAN Athletic picked up their first point of the League One campaign thanks to a goalless draw against Doncaster.

But Gary Caldwell’s men remain without a goal in open play from their three matches in all competitions.

The closest they came to breaking the deadlock was Michael Jacobs’ first-half free-kick that hit the bar and bounced over.

They could and perhaps should have been awarded a penalty right at the death when Max Power was sent tumbling in the Rovers area, only for the referee to wave play on.

However, Doncaster will feel they could easily have been returning to South Yorkshire with all three points having undoubtedly edged the play over 90 minutes.

Latics required Rich O’Donnell to pull off a couple of fabulous saves from Andy Williams and Harry Forrester to keep them out, with David Perkins also heading Gary MacKenzie’s header off the line in the second half.

The result at least lifts Latics off the foot of the table at the expense of Bradford, but it’s been far from the ideal start for Caldwell and his new-look side.

Caldwell had again shuffled his pack, bringing back loan pair Jonjoe Kenny and Francisco Junior - who were ineligible for the midweek Capital One Cup defeat to Bury - as well as Chris McCann.

But it was the visitors who flew out of the blocks and they were nearly ahead inside 90 seconds.

Williams raced through the right channel before turning down a shot and switching the ball back to Forrester.

The man who ‘accidentally’ netted last weekend when trying to return the ball to opponents Bury had the full goal to aim at, only to drag his effort just wide of the far post.

Latics had another let-off moments later when O’Donnell saw an attempted clearance charged down by a Rovers attacker, and was fortunate to see the ball end up behind for a goal-kick.

After dusting themselves down, Latics worked a nice move down the left when Jacobs released full-back Reece James, whose cross wasn’t great but was sliced goalwards by an unsuspecting defender into the grateful arms of his goalkeeper.

Latics came closer still when, after McCann was fouled on the edge of the area, Jacobs curled a beauty over the wall that flicked the crossbar on its way behind.

But other than that the visitors enjoyed the best of an opening period that featured several breakdowns in communication in the fledgling Latics rearguard, resulting in ball being coughed up far too cheaply and a few heart-in-mouth moments.

From one such instance, a cross from the Doncaster left flashed across the area and nicked a defender on its way out for a corner.

The resulting set-piece from ex-Latics defender Aaron Taylor-Sinclair was headed wastefully wide by MacKenzie.

O’Donnell and Leon Barnett then got themselves into a muddle, but thankfully Rovers gave the ball straight back when they might have fashioned something promising.

Latics were nearly the architects of their own downfall on the half-hour mark when the visitors defended a corner resolutely and broke at speed.

The ball found its way to Williams on the left, and he bore in on goal at speed.

Fortunately for Latics, O’Donnell was off his line in a flash to make a superb diving save.

Moments later, the goalkeeper again came to his side’s rescue to pull off a magnificent point-blank save to deny Forrester.

The visitors ended the half with a couple of shouts for a penalty, the first one - for a foul on James Coppinger - ambitious to say the least but the second one - for a nudge on Williams - certainly in the ‘seen them given’ bracket.

Rovers duly picked up where they’d left off after the restart, with Perkins forced to concede a free-kick on the edge of the area and O’Donnell getting his body behind the delivery from Forrester.

A lovely move from the South Yorkshiremen then saw the ball arrive at the feet of the dangerous Williams, who slid the ball just wide although the flag was up in any case.

Latics made a double change nine minutes in to try to change the flow of the game, McCann and Francisco Junior giving way for Sean Murray and Shaquille Coulthirst for his debut, having joined on loan from Spurs 48 hours previous.

But more confusion in the home ranks between Perkins and O’Donnell saw the concession of another unnecessary corner.

Thankfully Perkins made immediate amends by scrambling MacKenzie’s looping header off the line.

Credit Latics, they rallied in the final quarter and asked some probing questions of the Rovers defence.

A good ball from Power released Jacobs, who cut in only to pull his shot well wide of the mark.

Jacobs then produced a fabulous ball in from the right that Will Grigg was inches away from getting on the end of.

Grigg saw an attempted cross from the left loop over the head of the goalkeeper and kiss the bar on the way behind as the frustration continued.

Rovers threatened again when a Forrester corner found the head of MacKenzie, with Latics again struggling to clear their lines.

But the home side almost found a lifeline at the end, when Power surged into the box before appearing to have his legs taken from under him.

However, the official waved play on and, somehow, honours ended even.

After the game, Caldwell admitted his players are still coming to terms with each other and the system he has introduced.

“Whenever you put new players together, they’re training every day but it takes time to get those partnerships and that understanding going, and how we’re trying to play,” the Scot recognised.

“I’ve been here as a player, when you’re trying to play a certain way, and you have to be brave.

“You know when it goes wrong at times that the crowd are going to get on your back, but you have to be bigger than that and do what’s right for the team.

“I know it will come right - because as a player I saw it work at different clubs.

“It was never perfect at the beginning, but you have to persist with it, you have to believe in it, and we all believe in it.

“I’m sure in the coming weeks you’ll see progress and a team that can control games and go on to win them.”