Latics’ first match in the FA Cup First Round for thirteen years turned out to be a very unlucky omen, as Gary Caldwell’s men went down heavily against Sky Bet League One rivals Bury and could have no complaints about exiting the competition.
Caldwell made four changes to the starting line-up, Craig Davies, Francisco Junior, Richard O’Donnell and Haris Vuckic for his first appearance in nearly two months after an ankle injury, replacing Jussi Jaaskelainen, Max Power, Michael Jacobs and Yanic Wildschut.
Whether or not this unsettled the balance of the side too much is impossible to say. What is certain, however, is that having started the better of the two teams, Latics went a goal behind in unfortunate circumstances and were never able to recover their composure, with the home side showing far more composure in front of goal.
The Remembrance Day commemoration, including an impeccably respected minute’s silence by both sets of supporters, added a somber air to proceedings at the start of the game but, backed by another great following, it was Latics who begun the brightest and really dominated the early minutes – all the more surprising given what was about to ensue in the rest of the first half.
They fell behind in unfortunate circumstances after 18 minutes, when Chris Hussey and Danny Mayor combined on a breakaway down the left hand side. Hussey swung in the ball, Tom Pope reached it and it looked to be a regulation save for O’Donnell. However, in damp conditions, the ball somehow evaded O’Donnell’s grip, first hitting the post then crossing the line off the back of the keeper’s head.
As is so often the case, the goal opened up the game. Latics could have been level immediately when Vuckic found a yard of space in a crowded box to poke a shot at goal, which Daniel Bachmann saved well.
O’Donnell then had to save a header from Peter Clarke, which he held onto well, before both Junior and Tom Soares had long range attempts, both narrowly wide.
The second goal came after a clinical breakaway with the ball hitting the back of Latics’ net seconds after having been in the Bury box
Jacob Mellis reached a high ball before Junior was able to control it on the edge of the box and he sprinted the full length of the pitch and set up Mayor who fired home from just inside the area.
Davies did twice test Bachmann, both attempts well held, but the third goal of a catastrophic first half from a Latics point of view came in injury time, Nathan Cameron ghosting in at the far post to head the ball in from a deep cross.
Caldwell responded by replacing Vuckic and Grigg with Wildschut and Jacobs at the break but it was Bury who had the first attempt of the second half, Hussey’s low free-kick forcing O’Donnell into a good save at full stretch.
Latics tried to get back into the game but sitting on such a comfortable lead, Bury were able to lie in wait and attack on the break.
Latics did have a chance in the 57th when Wildschut went on a trademark gallop, found Junior on the edge of the box, he slotted in Jacobs but the effort was deflected off Cameron for a corner.
Power for Junior was Caldwell’s final throw of the dice on the hour mark, just as Bury brought on Leon Clarke, and it took the former Latics striker around five minutes to make his mark, converting Joe Riley’s cross from close range.
Credit to Latics, they refused to lie down and continued to search for a breakthrough. The referee dismissed Latics’ penalty claims when Clarke appeared to bundle over Jacobs in the box, Davies got behind the Bury defence inside the box but he skewered the ball wide before another chance was well saved by Bachmann – it really was one of those days.