Dayton banishes away-day blues
James Dayton's late goal earned Latics a valuable point in their Sky Bet League 1 match at Bristol City.
And it ensured Latics ended their away-day blues and Lee Johnson's return to his former club was not one to forget.
Surprisingly this was Latics' first point on the road since the opening day of the campaign when they won at Stevenage.
Latics arrived at Ashton Gate having suffered six successive away league losses and appeared to be heading towards a seventh when Jay Emmanuel-Thomas gave City a first-half lead.
Dayton's late intervention earned Latics a draw which they thoroughly deserved on the balance of play.
Latics' manager was pleased with his side's battling performance and the response following the midweek defeat at Notts County.
And with a modicum of luck they would have left the West Country with three points.
He said: "I am disappointed not to have won because, not wanting to be biased, but I thought we dominated the game.
"We were pretty comfortable throughout the game and their goal came out of the blue. That was disappointing because, when you dominate like that, you look for someone that little special who can win it.
"When our game is right, it is good. I don't know what we have got to do to win. We got into good areas, but couldn't stick the ball into the net
Johnson was pleased how his side played on the front foot throughout the game while the return of James Tarkowski helped reinforce the back line.
Latics' manager added he knew it would be difficult at City given their finances and budget and the fact they still have Championship quality players.
He continued: "Make no mistake, I knew they were a good side and we had to be at our best to get a positive result.
"Our boys were good and I think our fans will go home happy knowing that, after Tuesday night, they gave everything to the cause."
Latics made two changes from the midweek defeat at Notts County as Tarkowski returned after suspension and Jonson Clarke-Harris won a starting spot up front. The two players to stand down were Carl Winchester and Kirk Millar.
Johnson was given an ovation by the home fans as he walked to the technical area, recognition of the six-and-a-half years he spent at Ashton Gate,
Latics made a bright start and all they lacked a cutting edge. Clarke-Harris weaved a way clear in the right of the box on two occasions and delivered great balls into the six-yard box which each time were cleared following last-ditch interventions by defenders.
Dayton saw a shot whistle past the upright while Adam Rooney's overhead kick stretched keeper Elliot Parish.
City also had openings as former Latics' loanee Bobby Reid lobbed keeper Mark Oxley only to see the ball fly into the side netting as many home fans thought it was a goal.
A deflected cross from Emmanuel-Thomas troubled Oxley and it was the former Arsenal striker who broke the deadlock with a goal out of nothing in the 35th minute.
Ryan Taylor delivered a looping cross from the left and Thomas, who Arsenal once sold to Ipswich for £1million, produced the quality Latics lacked as he found the net with an overhead kick which went low to the right of Oxley.
It was cruel on Latics who didn't deserve to find themselves behind to an 11th goal of the season from Emmanuel-Thomas.
Latics thought they had won a penalty early in the second half, but referee Andrew Madley deemed differently and booked Clarke-Harris for diving.
Dayton was Latics' most dangerous attacking threat as a drive flew narrowly wide. And it was therefore fitting that he would be the player to eventually find the net in the 77th minute after a neat build up.
Dayton cut in from the right and, from the edge of the box, thundered a shot low to the left of keeper Parish.
During the last 20 minutes, Latics made all three of their substitutions as Cristian Montano, Sidney Schmeltz and Anton Rodgers were introduced for Rooney, Dayton and James Wesolowski respectively.
Apart from a drive from Clarke-Harris, which flew wide in stoppage time, neither side looked like conjuring a winner as the game ended all square.
City (4-4-2): Parrish, Moloney, Williams, Flint, Shorey; Wagstaff, Pack, Elliott (Baldock 83), Reid (Bryan 62); Emmanuel-Thomas, Taylor (Gillett 75). Subs (not used): Fielding, Cunningham, Harewood, Osborne.
Latics (4-4-2): Oxley; Kusunga, Tarkowski, Grounds, Mellor; Philliskirk, Smith, Wesolowski (Rodgers 88), Dayton (Schmeltz 83); Rooney (Montano 70), Clarke-Harris. Subs (not used): Rachubka, Winchester, Millar, Joksts.
The goals: Emmanuel-Thomas (35) for City. Dayton (77) for Latics.
Bookings: Clarke-Harris (56), Tarkowski (65), Rodgers (90) for Latics.
Referee: Mr A Madley.