BURTON ALBION 0-2 WIGAN ATHLETICTwo goals from on loan Everton defender Callum Connolly sank the Brewers on a disappointing afternoon at the Pirelli Stadium. The 19-year-old full back only joined the Latics on Friday from the Goodison Park side and had a debut to remember heading home either side of half time to pull Wigan to within three points of Albion in the bottom four of the table.
Once again Albion were punished for switching off in first half stoppage time as the youngster rose highest to head home Stephen Warnock's cross from the left and midway through the second period the defender was in the right place to guide a Michael Jacobs corner in the net and put Warren Joyce's side in an unassailable position.
Albion went into the game having not lost to the Latics in five meetings and hopes were high that a victory would put distance between them and the bottom three but on a frustrating afternoon it was not to be.
After the FA Cup defeat to Watford last week manager Nigel Clough rung the changes back to something resembling his more usual line-up for the Sky Bet Championship. Ben Turner made a welcome return to the back line after missing out firstly through suspension and latterly injury. Jamie Ward came back in as well slotting into a number ten role behind strikers Chris O'Grady and full debutant Marvin Sordell. There was also a full debut for midfielder Luke Murphy who tookmover in midfield from the injured Jackson Irvine.
A slip by Turner almost allowed Will Grigg a run on goal but the big defender recovered quickly enough to avert the danger and under pressure from Michael Jacobs the defender allowed the former Derby winger to nip inside him knocking the ball into the centre towards Grigg with Jon McLaughlin pouncing on the ball before the Northern Ireland striker could bag a tap in.
Albion began to press, kicking towards their own fans in the first half, and a scramble in the box saw O'Grady and Sordell denied. Another former Derby man, Stephen Warnock came to the visitors rescue with a header at the near post to cut out a dangerous delivery from Matt Palmer from the right.
Jacobs again had nerves jangling at the back for Albion latching onto a firm pass from Max Power and spinning inside Turner before hitting a low left footer that was comfortable for McLaughlin.
The Burton keeper was left somewhat shaken next time he had his hands on the ball. A lung-bursting break out of defence from winger Yanic Wildschut resulted in a free kick 25 yards from goal. The free kick was arced in towards the keeper and as he caught it in midair a challenge from ex-Albion favourite left him landing awkwardly and winded.
Wigan went closest yet to the opening goal on 25 minutes as Power lived up to his name getting goalside of his man on the edge of the Burton box before slamming a shot just wide of the far upright.
Jacobs did put the ball into the net on 29 minutes but it was all in vain as soon as he realised that the assistant had raised his flag to indicate that team mate Sam Morsy was offside going to meet Wildschut's pass down the line.
Sordell was the first recipient of a yellow card on 33 minutes. After showing a good touch to control Murphy's long ball his second took the ball a little too far away from him and he had to throw himself in to try and win the ball back. Referee Andy Madley was quickly on the spot and produced the card for a challenge that seemed to just catch Morsy as he tried to win the loose ball.
Warnock again kept his side level this time with an excellent goal line block to deny O'Grady. Sordell did well to create te chance inside the penalty box and O'Grady angled his shot just beyond Haugaard but not past the Wigan skipper.
Wigan were looking dangerous whenever Wildschut got on the ball and another pacy run created a chance for Grigg to instinctively send a shot across goal and not that far wide.
As the game ticked into added on time, just the single minute, it was a case of deja vu for Albion as they conceded. Wigan pressed down the left and having saved his side twice at one end it was Warnock who delivered a peach of a cross for Callum CONNOLLY to head home in the middle. A bad goal to concede and even more wretched timing.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-1 Wigan Athletic
A surprise change at the break saw McLaughlin fail to come out with Stephen Bywater getting a League debut for the club around a year after joining.
Albion set about their task with gusto in search of the equaliser and Sordell had shouts for a penalty when he seemed to be brought down on 55 minutes. A minute later a foul on the striker was punished by referee Madley with Buxton getting the yellow card. Centrally placed it looked a good opportunity from the free kick but Ward scuffed his effort tamely wide.
Ward also fired wide with a much better connection on 63 minutes putting another shot just wide after incisive approach play from Akins and O'Grady.
Despite all of their attacking play in the second half it was another sucker punch goal that felled Albion on 64 minutes. A routine corner on the right from Jacobs picked out CONNOLLY in the middle and the Everton loanee rose unmarked to guide home his second header of the game.
Ward's frustrations got the better of him as he went into the bok on 69 minutes for a clumsy foul on the half way line.
Connolly found his way into referee Madley's book for a third time in the game on 77 minutes but this time it was for a foul on Sordell that left both injured and requiring treatment. Many of those watching on felt that the Wigan goal hero was lucky not to see a different coloured card.
Clough summonsed Damien McCrory and Tom Naylor from the bench as fresh legs for the tiring Murphy and Lloyd Dyer but to no avail.
O'Grady forced a sprawling save from Haugaard and another effort deflected off two defenders and into the waiting arms of the Wigan keeper, symptomatic that Albion's attacking efforts were all to no avail. The second Wigan goal had drained the confidence and ensured that the situation at the bottom end of the Sky Bet Championship was going to be even tighter than it was at the start of play. Albion remain outside the bottom three despite this defeat but Wigan are now just three points adrift of them whilst Blackburn's defeat at Ipswich leaves them one point behind the Brewers.