MOWATT SPOILS WHELAN’S PARTY
Another loss but Mackay has faith
DEPARTING chairman Dave Whelan’s Wigan send-off ended with the Latics staring into the relegation abyss, but boss Malky Mackay is refusing to throw in the towel.
Alex Mowatt’s second-half strike earned Leeds victory and leaves Wigan eight points from safety with a crucial visit to Rotherham up next weekend.
It came after Whelan spoke to the Wigan faithful pre-match, recounting the club’s triumphant journey under his tenure, including their Premier League years and FA Cup win.
But those triumphs seem a long time ago with Mackay facing an uphill struggle to keep Wigan, winless at home in 15 matches now, in the Championship.
And Mackay admitted their home struggles have left him scratching his head.
“The performance level shows me that the players are still fighting for it and nobody is giving up here,” he said.
“If you just look at the stats, our possession and shots on goal would usually earn a victory let alone scrapping to get something out of the game.
“There were a lot of good performances but again we’ve got to put the ball in the net. We missed Leon Clarke who has been terrific up front.
“The players are showing every week that they’re as good as any team in this league, and what we’re lacking is just that little bit of quality up front.
“We have showed already what back-to-back wins can do. We’ve just got to look after ourselves and our own performance, starting next week at Rotherham.”
Despite Whelan’s impassioned pre-match speech, the game failed to spark early on with Sol Bamba’s towering header, from Luke Murphy’s ninth-minute corner, the first chance of note – with Scott Carson saving comfortably.
At the other end, Kim Bo-Kyung seized on a loose ball on 28 minutes but his shot deflected wide off Bamba.
Wigan brought Don Cowie on for the below-par Jermaine Pennant at half-time and the Scot immediately saw a shot blocked by Giuseppe Bellusci.
James McClean then got a powerful shot away, after Cowie and Sheyi Ojo worked a short corner on 47 minutes, but Marco Silvestri was equal to it at his near post.
Leeds were in front on 51 minutes though, Mowatt allowing a deflected pass to run across his body before unleashing an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box.
Marc-Antoine Fortuné led the Wigan response, twice playing tantalising balls across the sixyard box which first McClean, on 55 minutes, and then Ojo two minutes later were unable to provide a finishing touch to.
McClean was involved again on 72 minutes, his powerful strike hitting the side netting as Wigan threw men forward.
Leeds stood firm though and not even seven minutes of stoppage time could bring a Wigan equaliser, despite McClean’s free-kick forcing an acrobatic save from Silvestri on 91 minutes.
Leeds boss Neil Redfearn said: “The goal was a bit of quality and brilliance that was probably not in keeping with the game.
“It was tough surface to play on but if anybody was going to win it, I thought it would be us.
“I thought we had a real resoluteness about us to get across the line again. It’s been a real facet of our performance in recent months.
“We’ve got a list of injuries but the togetherness and will to win of the boys is there for all to see. It’s a real will to do well.
“I’m pleased for the fact we’ve got ourselves out of a bit of a pickle. It wasn’t good when I took over and we’ve got ourselves in a good position now. That is down to everybody, not just me.”
MOWZAT!: Leeds United’s Alex Mowatt celebrates scoring the winning goal with Steve Morison
UNSTOPPABLE: Alex Mowatt produces a moment of quality to seal victory for Leeds United