Latics v Walsall
Latics were again their own worst enemies as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Walsall in their opening home npower League One game of the season.
Admittedly they are off the mark following Saturday’s opening-day defeat at Milton Keynes Dons, but it was a hollow point which everybody agreed was more like a defeat.
Latics looked on course to pick up a win bonus until a late error from captain Dean Furman enabled the visitors to snatch an unlikely draw.
It was a massive disappointment after Youssouf M’Changama had given Latics a first-half lead which they had hoped would provide a springboard for victory.
Again it was a frustrating night for Paul Dickov whose side has gifted opponents goals in each of their first three competitive matches.
Latics’ manager said: “We should have been comfortable and picked up the three points. We haven’t and the players have to learn lessons.
“We warned the boys at half time about the dangers of becoming sloppy, not to think they were better than they are and to do the right things.
“In the second half we gave away the ball too easily and stopped doing the things which got us in front and we conceded a horrendous goal.”
Dickov was satisfied with the first-half display saying they put the visitors under pressure and deserved their advantage.
He continued: “I told the players to go out in the second half and not to take chances or over play, but it looked as though we wanted a stroll in the park and play at their place.
“After their goalkeeper made a mistake for our goal, you ought to be looking to test him as much as you can. We looked as though we wanted to pass it into the net which you cannot do at any level.
“The players keep telling me they are getting more mature with their football so they ought to be able to manage the game, put your foot through the ball when you are 1-0 ahead and get your shape back.
“May be I told a few home truths after the game that the players are at this level for a reason. Collectively in the second half we weren’t good enough.”
Dickov, who was without the injured James Wesolowski and David Mellor, named an unchanged side from Saturday.
After an uneventful opening, Latics began to create chances as Jordan Slew fired narrowly wide while Robbie Simpson and Youssouf M’Changama brought good saves from keeper David Grof.
Walsall also had their moments as striker Will Grigg twice fired narrowly wide.
Latics took the lead in the 36th minute, albeit with a slice of good fortune as M’Changama’s 30-yard drive looked to be saved by Grof before it somehow squirmed out of his grasp and rolled into the empty net.
There were chances at both ends in the early stages of the second half as Jamie Paterson’s free kick almost caught keeper Alex Cisak red faced when he failed to catch the ball and almost dropped it into his own net while Grigg burst through only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle from Jean-Yves M’voto.
Slew and M’Changama both shot just wide for Latics as M’Changama’s goal looked increasingly like being the only one of the game.
Disaster struck with 11 minutes left when Furman’s back pass was intercepted by substitute striker George Bowerman who will rarely have an easier goal as it was presented to him on a plate.
Latics, who had not long before brought on Connor Hughes and Daniel Taylor, huffed a puffed without every looking likely to conjure a winner.
Indeed, if anything the Saddlers could have snatched victory in the 86th minute when Paterson cut in from the left only to fire about one yard wide of the far post.
But as Dickov was at pains to say afterwards, lessons must be learned from tonight’s slip up.
Latics (4-4-2): Cisak; Byrne, Tarkowski, M’voto, Grounds; Croft, Furman, M’Changama, Montano (Hughes 71); Simpson, Slew (Taylor 68). Subs (not used): Brown, Bouzanis, Smith, Millar, Winchester.
Walsall (4-4-1-1): Grof; Purkiss, Butler, Holden, J Chambers; Paterson, Featherstone (Williams 66), A Chambers, Hemmings; Cuvelier; Grigg (Bowerman 67). Subs (not used): Jones, Benning, Downing, Walker, Baxendale.
The goals: M’Changama (36) for Latics. Bowerman (79) for Walsall.
The cards: Byrne (85) for Latics, Holden (16) for Walsall.
Referee: Mr M Brown.
Attendance: 3,496 (169 visitors).