Malky Mackay’s Latics were unable to prevent a rejuvenated Nottingham Forest from notching a second victory on the trot under new manager Dougie Freedman on what proved to be another difficult evening for the club.
In a combative first half, Latics matched Forest and even after Britt Assombalonga opened the scoring just after the half hour mark, they could have got back in the game.
But two good goals early in the second half effectively killed off the contest and left Latics with nothing to show for their efforts once again.
Mackay made just the single change to his starting line-up, an enforced absence of Chris McCann with a hamstring problem allowing the return of skipper James Perch, playing back at the club where it all began for him. Chris Herd, who deputised at right-back against AFC Bournemouth, came into midfield, while new signing Harry Maguire had to make do with a place on the bench.
Forest were the first to threaten, on four minutes. Assombalonga chased a long punt down the right channel and laid the ball back to Chris Burke. His deep cross reached Michail Antonio but the header was wide of Ali Al Habsi’s far post.
Latics enjoyed good spells in possession for long periods from then on, the best move coming when Kim Bo-Kyung tried his luck from distance after neat build up on 21 minutes, forcing Karl Darlow to save at full stretch and parry the ball to safety.
But it all went wrong just after the half hour mark when Burke skipped through the centre of midfield to feed Assombalonga on the right side of the box, and he fired past Al Habsi.
Latics responded with a good move on the break, Clarke going down in the Forest area under the close attention of two defenders but the referee waved away appeals for a penalty. James McClean, having switched wings to the right hand side, then drove into the box at pace but was dispossessed as he was about to pull the trigger. A minute later, he launched another attack, beating his full back Danny Fox and seeing his cross scrambled away.
Unfortunately for Latics, they couldn’t continue their momentum after the break and Forest came out of the traps really quickly. Lansbury immediately stung Al Habsi’s fingers from inside the box but ironically Forest scored their second on the back of one of Latics’ best moves of the game.
Clarke was unable to control Taylor’s cross from the left, allowing Forest to regain possession through Antonio. He barged past the challenges of both Herd and Perch on the half-way line and chipped a long ball to the unmarked Burke. He had time to set himself up for the shot and smash it past a helpless Al Habsi in off the left post.
Sheyi Ojo was immediately brought on in place of Kim, but Forest quickly scored a third on 61 minutes when Lansbury curled in from the edge of the box. Latics had the proverbial mountain to climb.
Martyn Waghorn replaced Herd, as Clarke got his head to another Taylor cross but his effort went wide of Darlow’s near post.
Latics did show flashes of rhythm in the final quarter of an hour, Ojo’s trickery giving grounds for optimism, while Clarke is a menace in the box for defenders. McClean forced a good save from Darlow when Ojo put him through while substitute Billy Mckay, who came on for Clarke in the final few minutes, had a snap shot from Waghorn’s cross that went wide.
But it was a night to forget for Latics all told. Final mention should be made of the hardy band of Latics supporters who made the trip to the East Midlands.