Costly home defeat for Johnson's men
Latics suffered another costly home defeat as they remain just outside the relegation places in npower League One.
Carlisle United emerged 2-1 victors as Latics missed a great opportunity to inch further clear of the bottom four.
It was a classic cliché game of two halves as the damage was inflicted in a disappointing opening period as the Cumbrians established a 2-0 advantage through goals from Liam Noble and Jordan Mustoe.
Manager Lee Johnson made a triple substitution at the break and it helped spark a spirited second half showing.
Jose Baxter halved the deficit and, but for two brilliant saves from keeper Mark Gillespie to deny Matt Smith and Bobby Reid, Latics could well have produced a great escape.
Johnson, reflecting on his first defeat as Latics' manager, said: "I don’t think it could have got any worse after the first half. It was very poor and I apologise to the fans.
"It is as though we need a punch on the nose to get going, but we need to retaliate first and make sure we are on the front foot.
"In the second we came out and gave it a go and the changes influenced the game and gave us momentum and energy allowing us to play on the front foot."
Johnson added it was a gamble to make all three substitutions at the break, but felt it was so bad that they were warranted.
And while disappointed with the loss, Johnson took encouragement from the way his side finished the game with Carlisle hanging on for victory.
"At least we have got a bit of pride restored in the second half by at least having a go," he said.
Johnson added that he possibly blames himself for "overcooking" them in training trying to get the players bright and sharp.
He said: "The players were leggy, yet yesterday they were razor sharp in training.
"That is down to mental toughness and mental desire. Winners can get six, seven eight out of 10 even when they are a bit leggy, but I will take the blame for that as obviously I have overcooked it in training.
"We have all been leggy, but it is the desire to go and win. And going forward we have to be a lot tougher mentally."
Johnson added that Matt Smith or Bobby Reid made it 2-2 with 10 minutes left, he would have fancied Latics’ chances of snatching victory.
"It is a bad day at the office and it is hurting me. All we can do is to take stock and learn quickly and get ready for two big away games." he said.
Lee Croft was ruled out through a foot injury as he was replaced by Reid.
It was the first change Johnson had made in his four games at the helm at Boundary Park.
Latics fell behind in the 10th minute following a terrific solo effort from Noble. The midfield man beat James Wesolowski and burst forward before firing low to the left of keeper Dean Bouzanis from outside the box.
And the afternoon became a whole lot worse when Carlisle doubled their advantage in the 33rd minute when Noble this time turned provider.
Noble released Mustoe on the left and, spotting Bouzanis off his line, the left back scored with a delightful lob.
Latics were unlucky not to get on to the scoresheet late in the half when Gillespie made a flying save to deny Baxter.
There were also claims for a penalty after Robbie Simpson’s far-post header from Jonathan Grounds’ corner clearly struck an arm.
Johnson reacted decisively at the break taking off Lee Barnard, Simpson and Connor Brown at the break replacing them with Matt Smith, Kirk Millar and David Mellor.
They livened Latics with Millar's energy and Matt Smith's aerial prowess helping transform their fortunes.
The Smith's combined as Korey crossed for Matt whose header was kicked off the line by Peter Murphy.
Millar eluded the offside trap and lobbed Gillespie only for Mustoe to clear off the line.
Latics were handed a route back into the game when Korey Smith, making an overlapping run on the right, was tripped by Mustoe as he burst into the box.
Baxter stepped forward to send Gillespie the wrong way as he scored his 15th goal of the season.
He could easily have made it 16 moments later, but could only direct his shot straight at Gillespie.
Latics had three great chances to equalise from the 80th minute onwards.
Baxter threaded a great through ball to release Matt Smith who galloped clean through only for Gillespie to produce a great block.
Gillespie then had an element of fortune as he dropped a cross from Millar only to redeem himself with a good block to deny Baxter.
Baxter was pulling the strings in midfield and he dissected the visiting defence for a second time with a slide-rule pass. This time Reid sprinted clear only for Gillespie to make another outstanding save as Latics' last chance of a point disappeared.
Latics (4-2-3-1): Bouzanis; Brown (Mellor 46), Tarkowski, M’voto, Grounds; Wesolowski, K Smith; Reid, Baxter, Simpson (Millar 46); Barnard (Smith 46). Subs (not used): Cisak, Iwelumo, Montano, Byrne.
Carlisle (4-3-3): Gillespie; Potts, Murphy, Livesey, Mustoe; Noble, Thirlwell, Berrett; McGovern (Manset 61), Miller, Welsh (Cadamarteri 77). Subs (not used): Collin, Loy, Edwards, Beck, Todd.
The goals: Noble (10), Mustoe (33) for Carlisle. Baxter (73 pen) for Latics.
Bookings: Simpson (45+1) for Latics. Noble (84) for Carlisle.
Referee: Mr M Naylor.
Attendance: 4,271 (491 visitors).