Latics were not able to turn dominance into goals for the second game running and agonisingly went down at the Cardiff City Stadium to a solitary second half strike from last season’s loanee Nicky Maynard.
It was another cruel outcome for Latics who worked hard and dominated for long spells of the game with fast, precision passing. They carved out a number of good chances but were not able to force the ball past David Marshall in the Cardiff net, who pulled off a couple of great saves in particular to deny Uwe Rosler’s men either side of half time.
Skipper Emmerson Boyce returned to the starting line-up, Oriol Riera stepping down to the bench and Shaun Maloney side-lined through illness.
Latics had an early scare when Ivan Ramis failed to clear from a corner and Aron Gunnarson fired in a shot that was well blocked by Scott Carson with his feet. It would take the home side until the final seconds of the first half to register their next real effort of note, such was Latics’ dominance.
Callum McManaman was a constant thorn in Cardiff’s side. He started with a trademark run but after beating a couple of challenges, his effort was scrambled away. Boyce then just failed to connect with Emyr Huws’ corner and Marc Antoine Fortune was inches away from a great cross close in from the right side touchline by James Perch, half way inside the Cardiff half.
Latics were suddenly on the back foot when Carson misplaced a clearance into the path of former Latics loanee Nicky Maynard, who went down in the box under a shoulder barge from Don Cowie and the referee waved play on.
McManaman then pounced onto a great through ball after a sharp turn in the centre circle by Fortune, but was dispossessed just as he was about to pull the trigger. Latics continued to probe with intent and Andrew Taylor’s excellent cross was met by McManaman at the near post and Marshall tipped it over acrobatically. Great chance.
Fortune drove forwards through the middle after more good work from McManaman, his shot was blocked, McManaman was quickest to retrieve and his effort went out for a corner, which Boyce was inches away from meeting once again.
And there was more good work when Fortune won a free kick on the edge of the box, which was played short and eventually led to Huws’ sneaking around the back of the Cardiff defence. His cross was cleared only as far as McManaman inside the area. His deflected shot just sailed over Boyce’s head with Cardiff at sixes and sevens.
Tom Adeyemi did force Carson into a late save from distance just on half time but it was from a rare attack by the home side. The only element missing from a great first half for Latics was a goal.
It looked to have come a minute into the restart but Marshall dived brilliantly to deny Rob Kiernan from a corner, then Boyce rifled the follow up wide – the turning point of the game as it turned out.
Instead it was Cardiff who made the breakthrough, Fabio’s shot was sailing wide but was headed back into play from the goal line by Anthony Pilkington, Kenwynne Jones headed it on and Maynard found a yard of space to poke it home. Agony for Latics.~
Rosler responded by replacing McManaman and Fortune with Waghorn and Riera as Latics looked to hit back quickly and they kept enjoying the lion’s share of possession. James McArthur volleyed narrowly wide, then Waghorn put the ball inches wide from McArthur’s low cross.
James Tavernier came on for Taylor for the final quarter of an hour as Latics continued to search for the equaliser and pinned Cardiff back into their own half. His cross was met by Perch at the far post, but he couldn’t get a good enough connection. Riera then just failed to connect with another Tavernier delivery from the right. And it was Tavernier again who fed Waghorn through the middle in the last minute but the ball was nicked away as he went to shoot. It was that sort of night, so close yet so far.