The impressive away following had to witness a dire first half as Wigan Athletic dominated the game. Neil Danns replacing Chris Eagles was the only change to the squad that beat Doncaster last week and they set up in their usual defensive manner. After some early pressure the deadlock was broken when a penalty was awarded in 11th minute. The linesman had judged Matt Mills to have handled the ball inside his own penalty area whilst defending Ben Watson’s cross. The referee Kevin Friend initially waved away the protests although moments later his assistant flagged up the incident and gave the Wigan fans something to cheer about.
Ben Watson coolly converted from 12 yards past Andy Lonnergan, not the start that Freedman would have had in mind. 20 minutes later the home side had their second. After some comical defending from the Wanderers, Manchester United loanee Nick Powell acrobatically lobbed Lonnergan when Callum McManaman cross was half-cleared. He adjusted his body and scored what effectively was an overhead kick. This silenced the travelling fans and their frustration wasn’t helped by events on the pitch. The first 45 minutes were abysmal and the players didn’t give us anything to sing or even get excited about. Interestingly enough it was only after we conceded the second goal that Freedman decided to change his tactics to something less negative, this was seen with Neil Danns moving higher up the field which consequently led to Bolton carving out more chances. Either way Bolton went into the interval with a massive mountain to climb.
Freedman must have said some stern or inspirational words at half time because we witnessed a vast improvement in the second half. We were playing at a higher tempo and creating more genuine opportunities. It was crucial that the Trotters started the first half positively and got an early goal. Thankfully, just three minutes after the restart the Wanderers had halved their deficit. André Moritz floated in a dangerous ball which was met by Leicester City loanee Danns who instinctively headed the ball into the bottom corner and past Scott Carson. This cued manic celebrations in the North Stand and various pyrotechnics to be set off, letting a white mist descend around the ground. This goal acted as a catalyst for the supporters, and more importantly, for the team.
After the goals the 4,634 traveling supporters were louder than ever urging their team forward. Kevin Friend was decisive in the equaliser as he awarded the Trotters a penalty in the 64th minute. The referee penalised Emmerson Boyce for raising his boot as he tried to clear under pressure from Chung-Yong Lee. Although the contact was minimal his boot was at a dangerous height and left Mr Friend with no option but to award the penalty. Unlike against Middlesbrough, Moritz stepped up to take the penalty and placed it past Carson despite the ex-England keeper diving the right way. Optimism was high and expectations rose, a new belief was installed as our comeback was complete.
Unfortunately, 4 minutes later the smiles were wiped off of our faces as Callum McManaman fired home from close range because the Wanderers failed to clear a corner. This came against the run of play as we’d dominated the second half. We huffed and puffed at Scott Carson’s goal but unfortunately it wasn’t going to be our day as he made some impressive saves and had his crossbar to thank.
In all honestly it was a brilliant game and Wigan probably deserved to win it after they outplayed us in the first half. That said, it’s hard not to be disappointed coming away with nothing after we came back from 2 goals down. Wigan’s wingers were very impressive today, notably McManaman. He had Alex Baptiste in his back pocket all match and was instrumental in ensuring Rosler’s first win with his new side.
The Wanderers have less than a week to pick themselves up and hopefully respond with a win at home to Charlton. After this result the Trotters remain in 16th place and are now 11 points off the illusive play off places.