Wigan Athletic 0 Burton 0
Come the final whistle on May 7, a goalless draw at home in October may well have been forgotten.
But then again, like the point Latics earned against Burton last April, it could prove vital.
Gary Caldwell thinks the 1-1 draw that day effectively sealed promotion back to the Championship for his side, and only time will tell how important the point against their fellow League One graduates will prove this time around.
The scoresheet may have been blank, and that stat doesn’t stand because of a lack of chances, and it shouldn’t fool people into thinking Latics didn’t have to work for this draw, for which they have been punished, rather than rewarded, by moving to just outside the division’s bottom three.
Caldwell made three changes to the line-up which drew 0-0 at Brentford before the international break, which many feel came at a bad time owing to the upturn in Wigan’s performances before this game.
As expected, Craig Morgan took his place on the bench after recovering from a hamstring problem which had kept him out since last month’s international break, while Adam Le Fondre, Nick Powell and Yanic Wildschut came in for Will Grigg, Jordi Gomez and David Perkins, who were all on the bench.
As the opening exchanges breathed into life, it became apparent that if Gary Caldwell’s warning in the week that Burton would fight for each other were heard, his players were having difficulty acting upon it as The Brewers launched a flurry of attacks on Adam Bogdan’s goal.
Lucas Akins took three minutes to make a statement with a chance, with the No.10’s involvement in the away side’s attacks becoming an overriding feature of the first half as the Latics’ defence just about remained intact.
Before the clock had reached 10 minutes, the home side had to put up the barriers as Ben Turner saw a header go over and Shaun MacDonald had to throw himself in front of a Chris O’Grady shot, with another desperate clearance from a corner resulting in a header for O’Grady, which went wide.
Wigan did recover to some extent, and offered the home fans a couple of moments to at least half get out of their seats - starting with Wildschut going close after 10 minutes from a Max Power free-kick when Brewers’ skipper Kyle McFadzean brought down Le Fondre.
From here, the sides took turns to venture into each other’s territory, with Burton steaming upfield on 14 minutes thanks to a mistake from Stephen Warnock. Luckily for Caldwell’s men, Akins’ cross fell to no-one.
Three minutes later, Powell broke through against the run of play and handed over to Michael Jacobs, who managed to get into his opponents’ penalty area before hesitating with the shot, leaving Jon McLaughlin’s goal unharmed.
The most drama was undoubtedly at Bogdan’s end though, as he was caught well out of his goal when O’Grady spotted an opportunity from 50 yards, and Dan Burn was required to save the day with an inch-perfect clearance before the ball reached the line.
Despite the scare, Latics weren’t shaken into action and O’Grady had another chance to put Burton in front from a John Braford cross. He was off target again to let Wigan off.
The first half wasn’t a total write-off though, as Jacobs shrugged-off calls for a handball when he chested down the ball to make a decent run, and as the half-hour approached, Wildschut set Jacobs up with a nice chance thanks to his own crafty run, but the winger’s shot was deflected out for a corner.
Fans were still deprived of a reason to celebrate even when, two minutes later, Le Fondre had Wigan’s best opportunity so far, going through the middle before lobbing McLaughlin - the sighs coming from three stands at the DW confirming the ball missed its target.
Latics still pushed though, and Le Fondre was next to make inroads with a run which resulted in a corner, from which Wildschut had a shot saved, and the Dutchman had time to have another go before the break, but again McLaughlin was able to make the save.
If the teams matched each other in the first half with the number of chances they exchanged, the first quarter of an hour of the second half was close thanks to an all-round lack of urgency.
After a penalty call for Nathan Byrne was turned-down shortly after the restart, the game’s pace wound down to a dawdle before Le Fondre had a shot spoiled by a deflected on the hour and Akins replied with a shot saved by Bogdan.
There were more hands over faces in the home end when both Powell and Byrne were unable to take chances from a free kick when Wildschut was brought down.
Powell’s shot was saved with Burn volleying the rebound, with the ball gliding over the bar and into the stand.
The introduction of Morgan with 25 minutes to go brought an end to his long wait to return to action from a hamstring injury.
Latics’ response was to create the best chance of the game, with Warnock’s beautiful cross meeting Powell’s head - with three quarters of supporters beginning their celebrations before realising the ball had trickled just wide of the post.
With the final 10 minutes approaching, Caldwell gave the instruction for Grigg and Davies to take off their tracksuits to replace Le Fondre and Wildschut, and shortly after their introduction Jacobs again went close.
Having beaten everyone but the keeper with some nice footwork, there was the worry his hesitance would again thwart the chance he had created, and although he got the shot cleanly away this time, it was met with McLaughlin’s hands and palmed to safety.
Even with fans starting to leave over the canal bridge behind the East Stand, the result wasn’t cast in stone. With six minutes to go, Tom Naylor failed to take a chance from six yards out which should have been the winner, but Latics managed to hang on to stretch their unbeaten run to three games.
Latics:Adam Bogdan; Jake Buxton, Max Power, Nathan Byrne, Adam Le Fondre, Shaun MacDonald, Michael Jacobs, Stephen Warnock (C), Nick Powell, Yanic Wildschut, Dan Burn
Subs: Jussi Jaaskelainen, David Perkins, Will Grigg, Jordi Gomez, Luke Garbutt, Craig Morgan, Craig Davies
Jon McLaughlin; John Brayford, Kyle McFadzean (C), Ben Turner, Chris O’Grady, Lucas Akins, Lloyd Dyer, Tom Naylor, Matt Palmer, Will Miller, Jackson Irvine
Subs: Stephen Bywater, Tom Flanagan, John Mousinho, Lee Williamson, Stuart Beavon, Jamie Ward, Hamza Choudhury