A MUCH-IMPROVED Wigan Athletic played out a goalless draw with high-flying Nottingham Forest at the DW Stadium.
Latics were in danger of losing three on the bounce but put in one of their strongest performances of the season to come away with a point.
They may well feel they could have had more but it was in the final third where their struggles remained and they couldn’t find that elusive goal to give them the precious three points.
Uwe Rosler, who made four changes from Saturday’s defeat to Bournemouth, said before the game that he had instructed his players to come out of the blocks flying and they had clearly listened to him.
Callum McManaman and James McClean were two of the new additions and both hit the ground running down the flanks.
After a cagey opening 10 minutes it was Forest who had the first chance on goal though and mustered up what must be the miss of the season.
Eric Lichaj fired a fierce drive that had Scott Carson beat but looked to be blazing wide until Michail Antonio got a foot on it.
Despite having the whole of the goal to aim at and being just four yards out though, the big midfielder couldn’t add any control to his effort as the ball ended up in Row Z of the South Stand.
Wigan rallied though and a fired-up McClean had Wigan’s first chance of the game when he went on a strong run, played a sweet one-two with Andy Delort before firing just over the bar.
Centre-back pair Ivan Ramis and Emmerson Boyce both headed wide from corners for Latics who failed to muster a shot on target in the opening half.
Boyce appeared to take a knock as he went up for his effort and struggled for the remainder of the 45 before being replaced by Leon Barnett at half-time.
The tempo started to rise as the game approached the half-hour mark with strong challenges from both sides before Henri Lansbury went a little too far with a reckless lunge on Emyr Huws and earned himself a booking.
Forest started to get a foothold of the game just before the interval but couldn’t break down Latics’ sturdy defence.
There was certainly a feeling that the high-flying visitors hadn’t got out of first gear though and that was evident in the early stages of the second half.
Stuart Pearce’s men hit Latics from the off with Lansbury firing just wide before Britt Assombalonga muscled his way into the box only to see his effort blocked.
As the game opened up, with both sides showing more urgency in attack, Latics had their first effort on target when Delort latched onto a long ball from Carson only for Karl Darlow in the Forest goal to parry wide.
Rosler made his second change of the game as Shaun Maloney entered the fray in place of the tiring McManaman.
The German certainly wasn’t willing to settle for a point and thought his side had edged in front when another punt long from Andrew Taylor found Don Cowie whose neat pass sent in McClean. The Irish international powered his way into the box but couldn’t direct his shot goalward.
Out of nowhere though, Forest marched up the field and caught Wigan off-guard as Antonio found himself with a free header which fortunately sailed high and wide.
Latics didn’t let this affect them though and were soon back in control as McClean had his header saved before William Kvist saw his effort blocked.
Rosler showed his attacking intent as his last substitution saw Oriol Riera come on for midfielder Don Cowie, much to the delight of the 13,000 Latics fans inside the DW.
Latics piled forwards in the last 20 minutes, desperately searching for a deserved winner but Forest’s defence was strong and reduced the hosts to long-range efforts from Taylor, Huws and Ramis.
The dying moments were both nervy and exciting with Wigan growing in confidence and determined to put on a show to the home crowd.
Barnett had a tame header blocked from a corner in stoppage time before Forest headed straight down field and could have nicked it but Assombalonga’s effort was blocked.
Wigan: Carson, Perch, Boyce, Ramis, Taylor, Kvist, Cowie, Huws, McManaman, McClean, Delort
Subs: Al Habsi, Tavernier, Barnett (for Boyce 45), Forshaw, Maloney (for McManaman 59), Fortune, Riera (for Cowie 73)
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Mancienne, Wilson, Assombalonga, Lansbury, Hunt, Antonio, Burke, Tesche, Osborn
Subs: De Vries, Harding, Fryatt (for Osborn 72), Fox, Veldwijk, Lascelles