Costly defeat at Tranmere
Latics missed out on a glorious opportunity to climb out of the relegation places in npower League One following their 1-0 defeat at promotion-chasing Tranmere Rovers.
In a scrappy game, which was there for the taking, but Latics lost to a goal from Max Power which Caretaker Manager Tony Philliskirk attributed to poor defensive play from his side.
While the defeat leaves Latics still in the bottom four, it was a win which former Latics’ manager Ronnie Moore hopes will reignite their promotion challenge as it was only their second victory in eight games, though they remain in the top six.
It was a case of what might have been for unlucky Latics, who despite being far from their best, had a shout for a stone-wall penalty rejected while Jose Baxter struck the underside of the bar with a terrific free kick.
Philliskirk thought Latics deserved something from the game admitting the breaks and lady luck have deserted them in recent weeks.
He said: "We are disappointed because there was nothing in the game and I didn’t think we deserved to lose.
"We felt hard done by in the first half when we ought to have been awarded a penalty for a blatant penalty for handball.
"On another day we might have nicked a 1-0 victory rather than losing 1-0, but when you are at the bottom things don’t go right for you as we saw with Jose’s free kick hitting the underside of the bar and coming out.
"We feel that things are conspiring against us at the moment. Thing which were going in the three games we won have gone against us in the last couple.
"It is no use moaning and complaining as the points have gone and we have to look forward."
Philliskirk pointed out that the pitch, which was like a sea of mud, didn’t help them.
"We all want to play lovely football and win, but the pitch dictated the way the game was played. We often wanted to take an extra pass and were too fiddling at time in our play," he explained.
Philliskirk added the players must not feel sorry for themselves and remain positive. He also pointed out most other results at the bottom of the table went their way and their destiny remains in their own hands.
"We have two home games next week (against Hartlepool and Bournemouth) which are massive. And if we can win them, it will get us out of the bottom four," he said.
Philliskirk made three changes from the side which was beaten at home by Sheffield United seven days earlier.
There were recalls for fit-again striker Lee Barnard, Jordan Obita and Dean Bouzanis as Dean Furman, Robbie Simpson and Alex Cisak stood down to the bench.
Bouzanis was called into action making a terrific save to claw out a goal-bound header from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
It took Latics until midway through the opening period before they created their first chance when Matt Smith headed the ball down to James Wesolowski whose drive flashed just wide of the upright.
Smith then made a forward burst and fired a shot from 30 yards which appeared harmless until it hit a divot and diverted troubling keeper Owain Fon Williams.
Barnard then had a header saved while late in the half there was a shout for what appeared a clear handball by striker Akpa Akpro who was back helping to defend a Latics’ corner.
Smith was forced off through a knee injury just short of the hour as he was replaced by Robbie Simpson.
Tranmere made the all-important breakthrough in the 61st minute when Power cut in from the left and forced his way past several challenges before firing home low past Bouzanis at his near post.
"It was a slight mistake for the goal in which lost a tackle, their lad breaks, we back off and he shoots through people and the ball goes in the bottom corner," said Philliskirk.
The goal gave Latics a jolt and it sparked their best spell of the match as they had two great chances to equalise.
Fon Williams did well diving full length low to his left to divert Wesolowski’s shot from the edge of the box round the post for a corner.
And Latics came even closer when a well-struck free kick by Baxter from 30 yards struck the underside of the bar and was scrambled to safety.
Big centre-back Jean-Yves M’voto attempted another of his barnstorming runs from the back. This time he tried an audacious shot from 40 yards which stung the palms of Fon Williams.
Latics brought on Kirk Millar and Furman in the latter stages of the game to replace Obita and Wesolowski who sustained a nasty cut to his head.
Latics might have snatched an equaliser in the five minutes of stoppage time when Simpson’s header flashed just over from Connor Brown’s cross.
At the death, though, Tranmere could have extended their lead when Bouzanis parried a shot from Cole Stockton and bravely blocked the follow-up effort from Liam Palmer.
Tranmere (4-4-2): Fon Williams; Holmes, Taylor, Goodison, Bakayogo; Power, Palmer, Corry (Stockton 60), Bell-Baggie (Harrison 90+2); O’Halloran (Amoo 21), Akpa Akpro. Subs (not used): Black, Kay, Daniels, Mooney.
Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Brown, Tarkowski, M’voto, Grounds; Croft, Wesolowski (Furman 86), Baxter, Obita (Millar 69); Smith (Simpson 59), Barnard. Subs (not used): Cisak, Iwelumo, Taylor, Winchester.
The goal: Power (61) for Tranmere.
Bookings: Goodison (9), Power (64) for Tranmere. Brown (11), Tarkowski (18) for Latics.
Referee: Mr T Robinson.