Wigan Athletic 0 Walsall 0

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

WIGAN Athletic paid a high price for their third red card in the last five matches and, in the end, were grateful for a point against Walsall.

Captain Craig Morgan - making his first start in five weeks - was controversially sent off 20 minutes from time for hauling down Saddlers midfielder Kieron Morris.

Referee Andy Haines had no doubt about brandishing red, despite only booking Walsall defender James O’Connor in the first half for a similar foul on Jordy Hiwula.

It meant Latics, who up to that point had dominated their high-flying opponents, were unable to push for a winner in the final quarter.

And in the end Gary Caldwell’s men were hanging on for their third draw in the space of a week.

The home side undoubtedly edged an enjoyable encounter at the DW, but Will Grigg missed a couple of gilt-edged chances at the start of the second period against his old club.

New-boy Yanic Wildschut made an immediate impact after his half-time introduction, providing pace and power and twice forcing good saves from Walsall goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

At the other end, Morris fired inches wide before forcing a super save from Jussi Jaaskelainen, making his Latics debut at the ripe old age of 40 in place of Rich O’Donnell.

Indeed, it was a miserable reunion for Wigan’s trio of former Walsall players, with O’Donnell watching from the bench to be joined later by Hiwula and Grigg, both of whom failed to last the 90.

Paired up front for the first time, Grigg and Hiwula were pushing right up the field from the off, with Michael Jacobs his typical busy self in support.

Latics had an early half-shout for a penalty when Donervon Daniels advanced from right wing-back and attempted a shot that hit the arm of a defender, although there wasn’t much in the way of protests when the official played on.

Walsall were penalised moments later when Hiwula toed the ball past O’Connor on the edge of the Walsall box and had his feet taken from under him at the expense of a yellow.

Jason Demetriou was the next to have his name taken for fouling Jacobs, who was unable to make the most of either free-kick in good positions.

Latics were nearly in again five minutes before half-time, but Hiwula tried to cut back inside and lost the ball when he had the chance to shoot for goal.

And the home side were almost hit by the classic sucker-punch as, from the resulting corner, Walsall broke and top scorer Tom Bradshaw found himself one-on-one with David Perkins.

Thankfully for Latics, the veteran midfielder stood his ground and made a superb block before he could test Jaaskelainen.

Hiwula didn’t reappear for the second half, with Wildschut sent on for his debut just 48 hours after joining on loan from Middlesbrough.

And the Dutchman could have scored a couple of goals within five minutes of his introduction, his pace and tricky feet seeing him force two good saves from Etheridge in the Walsall goal.

Daniels was getting plenty of joy down the right-hand side, and the goalkeeper did very well to gather one cross with Latics attackers waiting to pounce.

Latics continued to be frustrated with Grigg - the last-gasp goal hero against Millwall in midweek - squandering a couple of gilt-edged chances to open the scoring.

He couldn’t move his feet fast enough to divert Wildschut’s left-wing cross, with Jacobs also unable to get there as the ball trickled through the area.

Then, seconds later, Daniels sent an inviting ball over from the opposite flank only for the ball to hit Grigg rather than the other way round, leaving the striker face down six yards from goal and wondering how it hadn’t gone in.

Wigan’s lack of cutting edge was offering increasing encouragement to Walsall, who were venturing forward more and more with purpose.

The major talking point then arrived at the three-quarter mark, with Morgan felling Morris and then looking aghast as referee Haines immediately produced a red card.

From then on it was all about damage limitation for Latics, who had conceded shortly after being reduced to 10 men in two of their previous four matches.

Grigg was sacrificed to make way for new-boy Donald Love to slot in at right wing-back, with Daniels switching to cover Morgan at the heart of the defence.

Morris was looking the man most likely to do something for Walsall and, after pulling one shot wide of the mark, he warmed the hands of Jaaskkelainen with a stinging drive from distance.

Max Power gave way to Tim Chow as Caldwell attempted to add much-needed energy to the cause.

But Latics were almost undone with only two minutes remaining.

A great cross from the right found Bradshaw unmarked in front of goal.

The striker, though, was let down by an awful connection that didn’t threaten Jaaskelainen - or his maiden clean sheet.

Latics: Jaaskelainen 8; Barnett 8, Morgan 6, McCann 8; Daniels 8, Power 7, Perkins 8, James 7; Jacobs 7; Grigg 6, Hiwula 5.

Subs: O’Donnell, Kellett, Love (for Grigg, 70), Chow (for Power, 78), Francisco, Odelusi, Wildschut (for Hiwula, 46) 7.

Walsall: Etheridge; Demetriou, O’Connor, Downing, Taylor; Morris, Mantom, Chambers, Lalkovic; Sawyers; Bradshaw.

Subs: Baxendale, Forde (for Lalkovic, 66), MacGillivray, Henry, Preston, Flanagan, Cook (for Morris, 80).

Star Man: Donervon Daniels