Latics v Notts County
It was one of those crazy afternoons at Boundary Park where Latics and npower League One leaders Notts County fought out a hugely entertaining 2-2 draw.
Debutants Matt Derbyshire and Jose Baxter each marked their first appearances for Latics with a goal as they both looked terrific acquisitions.
Indeed Baxter, a 77th minute substitute, was dynamite and could easily have trooped off with the match ball having scored a hat trick.
There was no shortage of incident and on another day Latics could well have won by some distance as they also had three strong claims for penalties rejected before they were finally awarded a spot kick which Robbie Simpson blazed into the Chaddy End.
Notts County were also forced to play for three quarters of the match with ten men after they had Andre Boucaud sent off midway through the opening period while there were seven other bookings in what at times was a feisty fixture.
Paul Dickov was generally pleased with his side’s performance, especially as two debutants had to be integrated into the starting line up while there were three new boys in the side at the final whistle.
Latics’ manager said: "Once the players get to know Matt’s runs and clever movement, he will score a lot of goals at this level.
"Once we get Jose match fit, he will be a real threat as he came on and influenced the game."
And of the match, Dickov said: "I felt, especially after the sending off, there was only one team which wanted to win it and that was us.
"I will probably look at it as two lost points as you look to win against ten men. And with the chances we had, the penalty shouts and disallowed goal, I think we probably should have won.
"You have to give Notts County credit, though, for the way they defended. Playing against ten men isn’t as easy as it looks sometimes.
"We went behind twice and the boys showed character to get back into the game to get two equalisers. We should have won the game."
Dickov was convinced his side ought to have been awarded three further penalties while Baxter had what would have been a dramatic 96th minute goal dramatically chalked out for offside.
Latics’ manager added that some of their attacking play in the second half was "excellent" adding they were patient with their build up play
Derbyshire and Reece Wabara, signed today on loan from Manchester City, were handed starting spots while Baxter was on the bench along with second-year scholar Chris Sutherland.
Latics also welcomed back Dean Furman from international duty and James Wesolowski from injury which reinforced the centre of midfield.
The main talking point in the opening half surrounded Boucaud’s sending off in the 22nd minute following a mistimed challenge on Cliff Byrne.
While the opening period lacked any meaningful action apart from the dismissal and a penalty shout for a challenge on Jean-Yves M’voto – the second period was an altogether different story as it made for compelling viewing.
The vistors snatched the lead within 60 minutes of the restart when a looping left-wing cross from Yoann Arquin fell invitingly to Joss Labadie who ran unchecked from deep to fire low past keeper Alex Cisak with a side-foot volley.
Latics were quickly back on level terms when Lee Croft threaded a delightful through ball for Derbyshire to burst through on goal and round keeper Bartosz Bialkowski to score with the coolest of finishes.
There were two shouts for a penalty when Wabara appeared to be taken out by the Polish keeper and a handball against Carl Regan.
When they had a third call in the space of eight minutes, referee Chris Sarginson finally pointed to the spot when Derbyshire was brought down by Dean Leacock.
Simpson stepped up only to fire high over the crossbar.
Latics brought on Matt Smith and Baxter who immediately made a weaving run only to fire narrowly wide.
Then in a class smash and grab, County snatched the lead again in the 81st minute when substitute Jamal Campbell-Ryce raced half the length of the pitch down the right flank pursued by Cristiano Montano.
Campbell-Ryce fired over a cross from the byline which looped over Cisak and went in off the far post. Dickov later revealed the Aussie keeper had held up his hands saying it was his mistake, but the trajectory of the ball was such it would have beaten most keepers.
Latics’ manager was delighted how his players kept battling to get a second equaliser in the 85th minute.
"It would have been easy for the players, as we have seen before, to get disheartened. They came back ever so well to get the equaliser," he said.
Croft fired over a corner from the right, Montano headed on the ball and Baxter swept it home at the far post.
Sutherland, the 17-year-old trainee, (pictured) was given his debut replacing Montano immediately after Latics made it 2-2.
Latics were denied what would have been a dramatic 96th minute winner when Baxter headed home Wabara’s pinpoint cross from the right only for the referee’s assistant to flag for offside as they came within a whisker of collecting all three points.
Latics (4-4-2): Cisak; Wabara, M’voto, Byrne, Grounds; Croft, Furman, Wesolowski, Montano (Sutherland 85); Simpson (Smith 71), Derbyshire (Baxter 77). Subs (not used): Bouzanis, Tarkowski, M’Changama, Winchester.
Notts County (4-4-1-1): Bialkowski; Kelly, Leacock, Liddle, Regan; Arquin (Showumni 71), Bishop, Boucaud, Zoko (Labadie 24); Judge; L Hughes (Campbell-Ryce 72). Subs (not used): Bencherif, Speiss, Wholey, Hollis.
Sending off: Boucaud (22) for Notts County.
Bookings: Montano (45+2), Wesolowski (45+4), Byrne (75), Baxter (88) for Latics. Judge (38), Kelly (45+3),Campbell-Ryce (90+4) for County.
The goals: Derbyshire (49), Baxter (85) for Latics. Labadie (46), Campbell-Ryce (81) for County.
Referee: Mr C Sarginson.
Attendance: 4,039 (539 visitors).