Barnard debut joy then heartbreak
Latics’ woes continued in npower League One following their 3-1 defeat at Walsall.
After a bright start and a debut goal for Lee Barnard, Latics lost their way as the in-form Saddlers made it seven wins from their last nine matches.
It was another frustrating and disappointing afternoon for Paul Dickov who admitted his side are in a scrap to avoid being relegated.
Though key decisions went against Latics - Dickov was convinced his side ought to have been awarded two first-half penalties – he had no overall complaints.
He said: "Over the course of the game, we were nowhere near good enough.
"Overall it is disappointing because I saw a lot of desire and passion last week and I didn’t get that today.
“As a whole as a team and as individuals, we were very poor. There were two, three and possibly four players who weren’t up to scratch.
“We didn’t win the Liverpool game because we had better players. We won it because we wanted it more. You cannot do it for one game and not the next three. Every time they go out on to the pitch must mean something for their careers. Otherwise it will be gone before they know it.
"I told the players we are in a right battle, a right scrap (at the bottom) and you have to be man enough and to stand up, roll up your sleeves and take the flak. And more importantly go out on to the pitch and give absolutely everything you can."
However, he believed the outcome of the game could have been different had they been awarded a spot kick.
Dickov continued: "At 1-0 if we were given one of the penalties and gone 2-0 up, it would have been a completely different game.
"We started the game well, did the right things with and without the ball, got our noses in front and then stopped doing them.
"We weren’t brave enough with and without the ball and sat too deep and, because of that, we couldn’t get the ball.
"There were encouraging signs for the first 20 minutes, but for the last 70 they were not so much."
Latics had four enforced changes from Sunday as Matt Smith, Robbie Simpson, Youssouf M’Changama and Reece Wabara weren’t available.
There were debuts for Barnard and Chris Iwelumo, Latics’ new strike pairing, while Connor Brown and Carl Winchester also won starting spots.
Barnard had a couple of early chances after linking up well with Iwelumo before giving Latics a 19th minute lead.
Lee Croft delivered a delicious cross from the right and Barnard, on loan from Southampton, found the net with a terrific header.
Latics had other openings as well as two shouts for penalties after Iwelumo and Barnard both appeared to be hauled back as they could and should have been out of sights.
The Saddlers lived dangerously before equalising in the 40th minute following a fine solo effort from James Baxendale who waltzed past Jean-Yves M’voto and rounded keeper Dean Bouzanis before finding the net from a tight angle.
And it might have been even worse within 60 seconds when Febien Brandy struck the inside of the upright with an angled shot.
Walsall had suddenly seized control late in the half and they remained in control in the second period.
Not long after the restart, Jamie Patterson released Will Grigg who was clean through only for Bouzanis to make a great save. Grigg also forced another dive from Latics’ keeper.
Winchester made way for Jordan Obita, a third debutant for Latics, after an hour to provide more thrust down the left.
Latics had to wait until midway through the period before carving out their first chance when Jose Baxter fired harmlessly over. Not long after, Walsall failed to clear Baxter’s corner and Jonathan Grounds fired off target.
Walsall went ahead for the first time in the 74th minute when Adam Chambers released Paterson who ran down the middle before firing low past Bouzanis.
Latics sent on Daniel Taylor and Chris Sutherland for Connor Brown and Croft and went three at the back in pursuit of an equaliser.
Paterson and Brandy had chances to extend Walsall’s advantage as they continued to pick off Latics.
There was further drama in the four minutes of stoppage time when Chambers put Paterson clean through yet again only for Bouzanis to keep Latics in the game. Sam Mantom’s follow-up shot was headed off the line by Cliff Byrne.
Then in the fourth and final minute of added time, Walsall sealed victory when Chambers again released Paterson who made no mistake to ensure Latics left the Banks’s Stadium empty handed.
Walsall (4-4-1-1): McLoughlin; Purkiss, Downing, Butler, Taylor; Baxendale (Westcarr 73), A Chambers, Mantom, Paterson; Brandy (J Chambers 86); Grigg. Subs (not used): Holden, Featherstone, Hemmings, Bowerman, Grof.
Latics (4-4-1-2): Bouzanis; Brown (Taylor 84), Byrne, M’voto, Grounds; Croft (Sutherland 78), Wesolowski, Winchester (Obita 60); Baxter; Iwelumo, Barnard. Subs (not used): Tarkowski, Murray, Millar, Cisak.
The goals: Baxendale (40), Paterson (74, 90+4) for Walsall. Barnard (19) for Latics.
Bookings: Brown (70), Baxter (73) for Latics.
Referee: Mr M Russell
Attendance: 4,672 (459 visitors)