Latics’ first game in the third tier for twelve years did not end as planned as a goal in each half by Coventry City’s Adam Armstrong, on loan from Newcastle United, led to defeat at the Ricoh Arena in the opening fixture of the 2015-16 Sky Bet League One campaign.
Gary Caldwell named a club record 10 debuts on his first team sheet of the season, indicative of the changes that have gone on at the club over the summer, Chris McCann the only player in the starting eleven who played last season.
After a cagey start by both teams, the game burst into life after a quarter of an hour when Armstrong broke free through the middle and slotted past Richard O’Donnell after a neat pass from Jim O’Brien.
Latics had a chance to respond immediately when Francisco Junior found Will Grigg in a yard of space in the box but his shot was parried by the feet of Lee Burge in the Coventry goal.
The Sky Blues forced another opening on the half-hour, Junior setting up Jonjoe Kenny on the right but Grigg couldn’t get a strong enough connection on the Everton loanee’s cross to direct it on target.
Coventry threatened when Reda Johnson’s header, after a scramble in front of O’Donnell’s goal, went straight to the keeper but back came Latics, a Reece James cross not convincingly dealt with by Burge but Coventry scrambled it away for a corner.
Caldwell made a double substitution with less than ten minutes gone in the second half, replacing Kenny and Junior with Kevin McNaughton and Craig Davies, two more debutants.
Latics were almost punished as Armstrong closed down O’Donnell only for the ball to loop just over the bar.
It was the home side who began to find a head of steam, Chris Stokes forcing the former Walsall keeper to dive at full stretch but the shot from 20 yards was just wide. And O’Donnell had to be sharp again, coming out to dive at the feet of Ruben Lameiras minutes later.
The hosts doubled their advantage when Donervon Daniels’ throw in went straight to the feet of O’ Donnell, whose clearance was only able to reach John Fleck on Coventry’s left side, and his low cross was diverted in at the far post by Armstrong.
Armstrong then hit the post with a rasping shot as he looked for a debut hat-trick before David Perkins relieved the pressure briefly as he forced Burge into a save.
Caldwell’s last throw of the dice came in the shape of Sean Murray, a 13th debutant on the day, replacing Daniels on 70 minutes.
Ex-Tranmere Rovers midfielder Max Power drove straight at Burge from the edge of the box and Michael Jacobs shot wide when he found a bit of space in the area as Latics piled on the pressure in a frantic finale, but almost paid an even harsher price, when James Maddison curled his shot against the upright.