There was disappointment for Latics and heartbreak for Matt Smith as they suffered a first-round defeat at holders Chesterfield in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
The striker was visibly distraught at the final whistle because it was his injury time own goal which ultimately proved to be the decisive moment of the match as the prospect of a Wembley appearance in the competition quickly disappeared.
It was a case of hero turned villain as Smith has earlier celebrated his first start of the season with a goal which had given Latics a first-half advantage.
Sadly the wheels fell off in the second period when Latics, without a number of key players, lost their way and the npower League Two Spireites took control and triumphed.
Manager Paul Dickov was deeply unhappy with his side’s second-half collapse saying: “After they scored their first goal, it got their tails up and it wasn’t acceptable after that.
“We need to get the ball down and get our wide players in the game – not hoof the ball forward 60 yards – and we didn’t do that from start to finish.
“I was still not happy with the first half, though we were 1-0 ahead and comfortable.
“I am disappointed, angry, fuming and the players know that. They cannot go down to Portsmouth and put in a performance with the desire, guts and determination and then turn up and do that tonight when I don’t think many of them showed desire.”
Latics’ manager explained they badly missed their two midfield leaders with Dean Furman and James Wesolowski both ruled out.
He says the defeat wasn’t simply down to the youth and inexperience in the side adding they were not good enough throughout the team pointing out he was intending to substitute Robbie Simpson and Lee Croft before they picked up knocks.
Dickov added that, despite the Doncaster game being postponed on Saturday, there will be no time off this weekend and they will be busy on the training ground working to right the wrongs.
Latics made four changes from the starting line up at Portsmouth, though three were enforced as Furman was away on international duty, Jordan Slew injured and Connor Brown banned.
The only one not enforced was in goal where Dean Bouzanis was handed his first appearance of the season.
Latics made a satisfactory start and it was no surprise when they took the lead midway through the half when Smith headed home a Croft cross at the far post – a great way to celebrate his first start of the season.
Both sides had further half chances, but Latics were rarely troubled defensively as they were full value for their interval lead.
Latics’ hopes of consolidating quickly disappeared as Chesterfield were back on level terms within four minutes of the restart.
Carl Winchester was at fault as his header back to Bouzanis was intercepted by former Latics’ player Danny Whitaker who raced clear to score.
It could conceivably have been far worse as Chesterfield suddenly gained impetus to their play while Latics lost their bearings.
Mark Randall and Whitaker had great chances to double the advantage, Whitaker forcing an acrobatic save from Bouzanis.
Latics then conceded a penalty just after the hour when Jonathan Grounds shoved Marc Richards over in the box as the striker burst past him. Bouzanis came to the rescue again with a flying save to beat out Whitaker’s spot kick as he, too, became hero turned villain.
Whitaker had a spell when he was unstoppable as he burst through again only for Bouzanis to block with his legs.
Latics brought on Connor Hughes, Kirk Millar and David Mellor as Simpson, Croft and Winchester made way midway through the half.
There was a brief spell when Latics regained some of the lost initiative as Mellor shot narrowly wide, Youssouf M’Changama twice stung the palms of keeper Tommy Lee and Hughes rattled the crossbar in the 87th minute with a terrific 30-yard drive.
It was a case of so near and yet so far for Hughes who again underlined the fine margins. What would the outcome have been had that gone in?
It didn’t and Chesterfield rode their luck to snatch victory in stoppage time when Latics were in retreat.
Drew Talbot fired over a cross to the far post and striker Smith, helping out at the back, could only direct his header past his own keeper.
The spectre of a penalty shootout after 90 minutes, which had been looming, suddenly disappeared as the hosts celebrated knocking out more lofty opponents.
And for Latics it was just as painful as the defeat last season at the hands of the Spireites in the two legged Northern Area Final of the JPT.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee (O’Donnell 89); Forbes, Trotman, Hird, Ridehalgh; Talbot, Randall (Clay 90+4), Togwell, Whitaker; Boden (Hazel 65), Richards. Subs (not used): Darikwa, Lester.
Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Byrne, Tarkowski, M’voto, Grounds; Croft (Millar 71), Winchester (Mellor 71), M’Changama, Montano; Simpson (Hughes 65), Smith. Subs (not used): Cisak, Taylor.
The goals: Whitaker (49), Smith (90+1 own goal) for Chesterfield. Smith (23) for Latics.
Bookings: Tarkowski (67), Montano (69) for Latics.
Referee: Mr T Harrington.