WIGAN Athletic kicked off 2016 with a point as they came from behind to draw 1-1 at Scunthorpe.
The Iron had been absolutely battered 3-0 in the corresponding fixture at the DW at the start of the campaign, and been flattered by the scoreline if anything.
But Mark Robins’ men looked a far more accomplished side on this occasion and, on another day, could even have taken all three points.
After Kevin van Veek had fired wide and headed over, Scunthorpe did take the lead when Scott Laird’s left-wing cross was stroked home at the far post by an unmarked Luke Williams.
Latics were level 11 minutes before the interval when Max Power’s cross found Michael Jacobs, who controlled and then found the bottom corner with a cracking left-foot finish.
Both sides had chances to win it after the break, with Wigan twice seeing efforts kicked off the line.
First, a Jacobs corner was cleared by substitute Kyle Wootton, before the Latics goalscorer created another gilt-edged opportunity for Jason Pearce, whose stab goalwards was thwarted by David Mirfin.
But the Iron also came close in the dying seconds when a Williams free-kick was flicked on and Wootton’s shot flew just wide of the mark.
And in the very last minute, goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen had to act smartly to regather after parrying Stephen Dawson’s shot into the path of Paddy Madden.
Sadly, the result and the game was put into perspective by the horrific news filtering through during the first half that ex-Latics defender Steve Gohouri had been found dead in Germany at the age of 34.
The impromptu chanting from the away end of ‘There’s only one Steve Gohouri’ was both touching and fitting for a man who played alongside current boss Gary Caldwell and goalkeeping coach Mike Pollitt during his time at the DW.
Caldwell had earlier sprung a major surprise in his team selection, leaving out Reece James for the first time in the league since his summer signing from Manchester United.
That meant Chris McCann switching to left-back, and the new man was quickly into the game as the home side went on the attack.
Van Veen sent an early left-foot shot just wide of the far post, before getting his head to a Madden cross only to see it fly harmlessly over the top.
At the other end, Yanic Wildschut was looking Wigan’s man most likely to create something, warming the goalkeeper’s hands with his first effort before skinning his full-back on the outside moments later.
Unfortunately, the greasy playing surface contributed to him over-running the ball, but it was an early warning for the home defence.
Both sides were looking to attack at every opportunity, and indeed the Iron took the lead with their next attack on 20 minutes.
Van Veen fed Laird down the left, and his cross was turned in by Williams at the far post, with McCann caught slightly out of position.
Wigan’s attempts at a response were thwarted when Wildschut’s pull-back was only just cut out, before Max Power lashed a long-range shot well over.
Jaaskelainen was forced into a good save after Madden got goal-side of McCann following a long diagonal ball from Van Veek.
The home side then had a five-on-three break after David Perkins was dispossessed on the edge of the Scunthorpe box, although Latics were able to get back and snuff out the danger.
And the visitors made the most of that let-off by equalising moments later.
Power it was who found Jacobs in a good position, and the ex-Wolves man controlled superbly before striking the ball into the corner of the net.
That was how it remained at the break, with Scunthorpe denied just before the whistle when Van Veen forced another good stop from Jaaskelainen.
The veteran custodian was called into action again within moments of the restart to collect a dangerous inswinging corner with several Iron players waiting to pounce.
Latics were almost in when Will Grigg stole a yard inside the area, only for his shot to clear the bar.
They came closer still when Jacobs cut into the left-hand side of the area and played a lovely ball across the six-yard box that Andy Kellett was only inches away from getting on the end of.
After more good work from Wildschut, the ball found its way to McCann, who couldn’t hit the target from the edge of the area.
That was the signal for Kellett to give way to Jordy Hiwula with 18 minutes remaining, and the new man immediately had a shot deflected behind for a corner.
From the resulting set-piece from Jacobs, the ball looked to be curling in to the net before Wootton - only just on for Scunthorpe - cleared off the line.
Another teasing delivery from Jacobs saw Pearce prod goalwards only for Mirfin to this time get back and clear his lines.
There was further frustration when Wildschut embarked on a driving run down the left only to cut in and flash his shot wide of the far post.
And Latics almost paid for their profligacy right at the death, with Scunthorpe fluffing a couple of good chances to sneak all three points.
Wootton almost made a name for himself only to volley inches wide after Williams’ free-kick had been nodded in to his path.
Then, with virtually the last kick, Dawson’s shot was repelled by Jaaskelainen, who was then up off the deck and first to the loose ball with Madden sniffing around for a tap-in.