Latics v Doncaster Rovers
Latics again found little festive cheer as they lost to an injury-time goal from David Syers as Doncaster Rovers triumphed 2-1 at rainswept Boundary Park in npower League One.
It was tough on Latics as the game had 1-1 written all over it until substitute Syers had the last word in stoppage time.
Latics had conceded an early Rob Jones goal and equalised through Youssouf M’Changama and looked the side more likely to emerge victors before Syers struck at the death.
Indeed, Doncaster’s Gary Woods was by far the busier of the two keepers as Latics produced a battling performance creating 11 goal attempts compared to four from their opponents.
It left manager Paul Dickov disappointed and frustrated to come away empty handed as he reflected: "Over the 90 minutes I thought we were the better team and it is disappointing to be standing here with nothing again.
"When we perform like that, we are a good team. We played one of the best teams in the division and should have got something out, at least one point if not three.
"It is really disappointing after the amount of effort they put in, but there were a lot of positives to take from the game. And as we saw again there are fine margins that can win or lose you games."
Latics’ manager added that the litmus test was how the crowd reacted at the final whistle.
"At the end after losing a late goal, it would have been easy for them to have a pop, but a lot stayed to clap the boys off the pitch," he said.
And looking back over the course of the game, Dickov said: "We conceded an early goal and reacted really well and were unlucky to come in at half time 1-1.
"In the second half there wasn’t much between the teams and we were really disappointed to concede a goal at the end."
Dickov also spoke of "game management" saying possibly at the end they had too many players wanting to win the match and they, therefore, took too many risks as opposed to consolidating.
He explained: "We left ourselves open through our over eagerness to get into the box. One or two ought to have sat back.
"When you leave yourself open at the back against good players, they tend to pick you off which is what happened with the goal."
M’Changama was preferred to Cristian Montano on the left, the one change from the side which kicked off at Yeovil Town on Saturday.
Latics found themselves 1-0 down in the fourth minute as Doncaster struck the first blow in the third meeting between the clubs in the last month.
David Cotterill’s free kick from the left was met at the far post by Billy Paynter whose shot struck the upright before rebounding to Jones whose header looped in from 10 yards.
Latics produced a spirited replay as Jose Baxter and Matt Smith both headed narrowly wide while Baxter’s 30-yard shot brought a good save from Woods diving low to his left.
There was an injury scare for Latics when M’Changama stayed down after a challenge from Paul Quinn. Club doctor Rob Beardsell and a stretcher was summoned only for the midfield man to continue to the surprise of everyone with his right knee heavily bandaged.
M’Changama showed no ill effects and also justified his starting spot as he equalised in the 27th minute with a stunning strike from 30 yards which was so powerful it went through the hands of Woods as it ended in the roof of the net.
Latics would have taken the lead not long after when Matt Smith’s far-post header was well tipped over by Woods.
There was another injury scare when Smith went off after a 36th minute clash of heads with Jones and did not reappear until the second half after having 10 stitches inserted in a gaping wound over his eye.
Latics’ 10 men finished the opening half strongly as Baxter twice went close, the second effort forcing another decent save from Woods.
Smith returned to give Latics a full complement for the second half which hit a lull into the mid-way point.
Latics’ keeper Dean Bouzanis came to the rescue pouncing on a Paynter effort on the goalline following an almighty scramble.
Cotterill then burst clean through only for Jean-Yves M’voto to save a certain goal with a last-gasp tackle.
The game looked set to finish 1-1 until Doncaster had the last word at the dead.
Bouzanis pulled off a good save to beat out a fierce shot from substitute James Husband.
Then just as the fourth official signalled three additional minutes came the late winner.
The ball was centred from the left and Syers guided a header wide to the right of Bouzanis who dived full length to his right.
In the aftermath of the events late on at Yeovil, it was another bitter pill to swallow having given so much only for Lady Luck to again prove elusive.
Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Wabara, M’voto, Byrne, Grounds; Croft, Furman, Wesolowski, M’Changama (Montano 84); Baxter, Smith. Subs (not used): Cisak, Brown, Taylor, Millar, Hughes, Winchester.
Rovers (4-4-2): Woods; Quinn, Jones, McCombe, Spurr; Cotterill, Harper, Keegan (Syers 62), Bennett (Husband 83); Hume, Paynter (Brown 79). Subs (not used): Martis, Blake, Maxted, Griffin.
The goals: M’Changama (27) for Latics. Jones (4), Syers (90+1) for Rovers.
Bookings: M’voto (55) for Latics. Keegan (61), Bennett (73), Hume (73) for Rovers.
Referee: Mr R Lewis.
Attendance: 4,252 (792 visitors).