Wigan Athletic 1 Barnsley 4

Wigan Athletic's players celebrate with the League One title
Wigan Athletic's players celebrate with the League One title

Not even the disappointment of a 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Barnsley could spoil a champion afternoon for Championship-bound Wigan Athletic.

Okay, Gary Caldwell would have much-preferred to have seen his side close the campaign with a performance and a result more in keeping with the season as a whole.

But having already achieved their seasonal goals last weekend - and celebrated accordingly - this one always threatened to be a game too far.

And the scenes after the game - as the Wigan players were presented with the League One title they have undoubtedly deserved - confirmed the 90 minutes were but a small blip on an otherwise phenomenal landscape.

The day looked like it was going to plan when Will Grigg put Latics ahead with only nine minutes on the clock, the Northern Ireland hotshot turning in Yanic Wildschut’s left-wing cross with a cool finish.

Grigg was cementing his place as the top scorer in the division, with his 25th in the league and his 28th in all competitions.

But the mood soon changed with the Tykes - needing a win to confirm sixth spot - getting their noses in front before half-time.

First Sam Winnall scored from the penalty spot after Ashley Fletcher had been felled in the box by Stephen Warnock.

Then Winnall was in the right place at the right time to turn home from close range after Lee Nicholls - making his first start of the season - had parried from Lloyd Isgrove.

A double substitution at the interval did little to improve matters for Latics, who were 3-1 down just before the hour mark when Conor Hourihane netted with a deflected effort.

And it was four inside the final quarter, when Josh Brownhill’s 25-yard free-kick proved too good for Nicholls.

Salt was rubbed into Wigan wounds in stoppage-time when Chris McCann was given a straight red card by referee Tony Harrington.

But that was all forgotten when the champagne - and the League One title - was brought out, and part two of the Latics promotion party was kicked off in style.

With all the pre-match pressure on the shoulders of the visitors, it was no surprise to see Latics flying out of the blocks with a real freedom about their play.

Wildschut was beating his man for fun in the opening quarter, and one penetrating run saw his cross clearly hit the hand of a defender.

The referee would surely have pointed to the spot, had Grigg not beat him to the punch by lashing the loose ball into the net from close range.

Wildschut was quickly past his marker again, this time drawing as foul in a dangerous position.

However, Michael Jacobs’ delivery could not beat the first man.

Wildschut was again the provider as he played in McCann, who unfortunately slipped as he shot and his effort cleared the bar by some distance.

At the other end, Adam Hammill saw a shot easily saved by Nicholls, who was handed a surprise start having warmed the bench since returning from a loan spell at Bristol Rovers midway through the campaign.

Nicholls made a fine save just after the half-hour mark when Winnall wriggled his way through, but Latics couldn’t clear and Warnock clearly pulled down Fletcher for a stonewall penalty.

Winnall made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Nicholls the wrong way to level the scores.

Barnsley’s top scorer was in again three minutes before half-time, when he followed in to score after Isgrove’s shot had been half-stopped by Nicholls.

Boss Caldwell’s unease was shown as he made two changes at the break, withdrawing Wildschut and Donervon Daniels and sending on Reece Wabara - who spent the first half of the campaign with the Tykes - and Ryan Colclough.

And Colclough was quickly into the game, having a left-foot shot that appeared to be blocked on the line by the hand of Alfie Mawson, only for the official to wave play on.

Barnsley succeeded in withstanding the Latics onslaught, and went further in front just before the hour mark.

Nicholls couldn’t claim what looked to be a routine cross from the right, and Fletcher teed up Hourihane to score via a slight deflection.

It was almost four within seconds, as Hammill was fouled just inside the Wigan half, and his lofted set-piece towards the far post was only just beyond the unmarked Winnall.

Caldwell went all-in by sending on Haris Vuckic for Jacobs but, apart from a shot from Max Power that was always wide of the mark, the home side were offering little in the way of a threat.

And the visitors scored a fourth with 17 minutes to go, when Isgrove was fouled 25 yards from goal, and Brownhill curled an unstoppable free-kick past Nicholls and into the top corner.

The record books will show Latics ended a memorable campaign on a downer.

But the pictures - and alcohol sales around Wigan over the next day or two - will tell another story.