Last-gasp goal earns Latics a draw
It was no more than Latics deserved as super-sub Matt Smith scored a 96th minute equaliser in their npower League One match at high-flying Sheffield United.
Smith scored with almost the last kick of the match as Latics extended their unbeaten run to three matches as the seven points picked up have propelled them up the table after an often fiery clash at Bramall Lane.
The goal cancelled out the penalty from former Latics’ loanee Nick Blackman which had given the Blades the lead early in the second period and which looked like being the matchwinner.
Latics maintained their recent improvement as they more than matched a Sheffield side which has made its best start to a season for 112 years. They have not lost in their first 12 league matches.
And Latics showed they can mix it with the best in the division with another performance which suggested they can enjoy a successful season.
Paul Dickov was disappointed not to have left with three points after later discovering Jonathan Grounds wrongly had a goal ruled out for offside in the opening half.
Latics manager said: "I thought at the time we should have had a goal and have since been told by people who have seen it that it that it ought to have been given.
"Yet again we are talking about a goal which has been chalked out for offside. It is getting to the point when it is not good enough."
Dickov was also disappointed with the penalty Latics conceded saying such incidents happen a hundred times in a match and go unpunished.
"You need referees to be strong when you come to places like this, but we didn’t get that today," he continued.
As to his overview of the match, Latics’ manager said: "The draw was nothing less than we deserved and my first thoughts after the game is that we deserved to win.
"We had more chances and looked a threat every time we went forward and defensively I cannot remember Dean (Bouzanis) having to make a save.
"It is alright me coming out after the game, as I have done befoe, saying we deserved something from the game. There is one thing saying it, but another going out and getting it.
"The spirit, attitude and desire the boys showed in coming to a place like this, falling behind and coming back to get a point shows fantastic character. I am proud because they dug in and deserved the result. "
Latics made two changes from last week’s win against Preston as Dean Furman was away on international duty while James Tarkowski stood down to the bench.
Robbie Simpson stepped into the midfield while the fit-again Jean-Yves M’voto replaced Tarkowski in the centre of defence.
Simpson could have scored within 30 seconds of the kick off when he glanced a header wide from a Jose Baxter free kick.
Latics had the ball in the net in the 19th minute only for the effort to be ruled out. Simpson’s shot was parried by keeper George Long with Grounds firing home the rebound.
The goal looked legitimate as left-back Grounds ghosted through the Blades’ defence from deep.
It was largely a case of both side cancelling out the other in the opening period.
United made the brighter start to the second half as a cross from left-back Marcus Williams almost floated in while Bouzanis turned a shot from Kevin McDonald round the post for a corner.
They were rewarded for their efforts in the 50th minute when Latics conceded a penalty as Jean-Yves M’voto was penalised for pulling back Dave Kitson.
Blackman scored from the spot, his sixth goal of the campaign, as he sent Bouzanis the wrong way from 12 yards.
Latics responded positively as Cristian Montano and Matt Derbyshire twice had good efforts, Derbyshire forcing Long into one decent save.
The pivotal moment of the match for Latics came when Smith replaced Simpson in the 82nd minute.
And a further defining incident came not long after when Ryan Flynn intercepted a wayward Latics’ pass, cut in past Grounds and M’voto and, with only Bouzanis to beat, rolled a low shot just wide of the far post. Had that gone in, it would have been all over.
Latics survived and Smith sounded a warning when he had a header well saved by Long following Montano’s cross.
They kept battling away and were rewarded in the sixth minute of stoppage time. The three allocated minutes became six because of a lengthy injury stoppage and time wasting.
Jose Baxter delivered an excellent cross from the left which dropped invitingly for Smith who, with the Blades looking for offside, calmly side footed a shot low to Long’s right from eight yards.
It was in front of the 864 travelling fans who went wild with delight as Blades’ supporters were left silenced and stunned.
Sadly one home fan came on to the pitch to confront the Latics’ players and emotions ran high, so much so on the warm down stewards were closely chaperoning them to prevent any further trouble.
It ought not, however, take the shine off another encouraging afternoon for Latics who appear to be on an upward march.
United (4-4-2): Long; McMahon, Hill, Maguire, Williams; Flynn, Doyle, McDonald, Cofie (Cresswell 70); Blackman, Kitson. Subs (not used): Westlake, Porter, Miller, McAllister, Chapell, Willis.
Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Wabara, M’voto, Byrne, Grounds; Croft, Wesolowski, Simpson (Smith 82), Montano; Derbyshire, Baxter. Subs (not used): Cisak, Brown, Tarkowski, M’Changama, Winchester, Sutherland.
The goals: Blackman (52 pen) for United. Smith (90+6) for Latics.
Bookings: McDonald (34), McMahon (45+1), Blackman (68) Hill (75) for United. Croft (40), Simpson (74), Baxter (90) for Latics.
Referee: Mr S Mathieson
Attendance: 18,188 (864 visitors)