Swindon Town v Latics
Latics picked up a valuable away point at high-flying Swindon Town in their pursuit of npower League One survival.
It was certainly hard earned as Latics had to survive an onslaught from the hosts in the latter stages of an enthralling second period.
And it took a combination of gritty defending by Latics, poor finishing from their opponents and a hefty slick of lady luck for them to earn a share of the spoils.
There was a brief spell when Latics thought it might be a sixth away league victory of the campaign as Lee Barnard fired them ahead against a Swindon side which has now suffered only two defeats in its last 20 league and cup games.
And it took a wonder goal from Swindon substitute Adam Rooney to spark the hosts to life and set up a frenetic finish in which Latics, who sadly slipped back into the bottom four after Scunthorpe United won, had to withstand a fierce bombardment.
It was an afternoon of mixed emotions for Latics' manager Lee Johnson who saw good and bad in his side’s performance.
He explained: "Obviously I am pleased, but also a bit angry because it shows we can compete for 60/65/70 minutes and match the top teams in the league.
"I went in after the match and half gave them a cuddle and half slaughtered them because I was fuming because we weren't fit enough for the last 20 minutes to sustain the earlier level."
Johnson added he took positives from three quarters of the game saying Latics more than matched Swindon and even in the latter stages he commended his players for putting their bodies on the line to hold on for a point.
He continued: "I said to the players before the match what do they want to do next season – be promoted, have a chance of the play offs or be relegation fodder?
"You saw for the first 65 minutes it was close on chances and I was pleased with that. Towards the end it was like the Alamo, but we deserved the draw for the amount of work we had to do."
Johnson added that it is now a case of going over the DVD and dissecting the good, bad and the ugly in readiness for Monday's bottom-of-the-table home clash against Colchester United.
"There was a lot of good and a little bit of bad, but there are a lot of positive signs to go forward. I am proud of the players, but I know how close we were to doing even better which is frustrating," he said.
There were no surprises as Johnson started with side which kicked off against Hartlepool United in his first match as manager and which ended in a 3-0 victory.
Matt Smith was back after a three match injury lay-off and on the bench alongside new loan signing Bobby Reid.
The two teams largely cancelled out each other in the opening half as Latics defended well and largely restricting Swindon to long-range goal attempts.
There was one major let off mid half when it took a heroic challenge from Jean-Yves M'voto to prevent Swindon taking the lead.
Andy Williams' shot was well parried by keeper Dean Bouzanis but Gary Roberts looked set to fire home the rebound until M'voto slid in and the snatched shot hit the upright.
Latics grew into the game and in the closing stages of the half chances fell to Barnard, Robbie Simpson, M’voto and Jose Baxter in a six-minute spell, though none troubled home keeper Wes Foderingham.
There was a let off for Latics soon after the restart when Williams eluded the offside trap to burst clear only to shoot wide as he was chased down by James Tarkowski.
The game meandered along until Latics snatched the lead in the 68th minute with a well worked goal.
Lee Croft produced a piece of superb dribbling on the right – Latics Player match summariser Roy Butterworth likening it to the legendary Stanley Matthews for fans of the older generation – as he weaved in from the right and cut the ball back for Barnard to fire into the roof of the net. It was the third goal of his loan with Latics.
Swindon by that time had already made all three substitutions – one injury enforced and the other two tactical.
And it was Rooney, one of the replacements, who equalised with a spectacular overhead kick. It was reminiscent of the goal scored by namesake Wayne in the Manchester derby last season.
Johnson admitted it was a special strike from the on-loan Birmingham City striker, but pinpointed a number of defensive lapses in the build up which could have prevented the goal.
The goal sparked Swindon to life as Rooney and James Collins, another substitute, wreaked havoc up front in a tidal wave of pressure from the Wiltshire side.
Rooney could easily have finished with a hat trick as in the latter stages three further presentable chances came his way.
Collins had four clear-cut openings but was let down by wayward finishing while Bouzanis denied him with one super block.
It was at times hairy scary but Latics somehow survived to leave the County Ground with a share of the spoils as Johnson made it four points from his two matches as manager.
Swindon (4-3-3): Foderingham; N Thompson (Byrne 55), Flint, Ward, McCormack; Ferry, Navarro, Luongo; Parrett, Williams (Collins 65), Roberts (Rooney 65). Subs (not used): Bedwell, Devera, L Thompson, De Vita.
Latics (4-2-3-1): Bouzanis; Brown, Tarkowski, M’voto, Grounds; Wesolowski, K Smith; Croft (Montano 72), Baxter, Simpson (Iwelumo 76); Barnard (Smith 76). Subs (not used): Cisak, Obita, Byrne, Reid.
The goals: Rooney (72) for Swindon. Barnard (68) for Latics.
Bookings: Simpson (53), Croft (62), Brown (81), Smith (85) for Latics.
Referee: Mr A Madley.