Wigan welcomed their biggest crowd of the season to the DW stadium this afternoon but the Latics conspired to serve up a performance which suggest that many of the players were already mentally in Las Vegas such was the paucity of quality football from the home side.
Barnsley by contrast needed a win to secure their play off spot and full deserved their bog win against a Wigan side who faded badly after the first quarter of the game and never clicked into gear.
Wigan manager Gary Caldwell made three changes to the side which secured promotion last week by the seaside, surprisingly resting keeper Jaaskelainen , replacing him with back up Nicholls and restoring Pearce and Wildschut to the starting line up for Wabara and Morsy.
Many Wigan fans were expecting a subdued performance with the league already won but for the first twenty minutes it was Wigan in the ascendancy with Wildschut the key outlet down the left wing and his pace not for the first time caused the away defence all sorts of problems.
From one of the Dutchman’s classy runs, Wigan took the lead, Wildschut burst down the left, crossed from near the deadball line, the ball taking a deflection off a defender and Grigg showed his customary anticipation, pouncing to put Wigan into the lead.
Barsnley didn’t bow down and in a sign of things to come, Hammill had a shot which Nicholls saved. Barnsley continued to press the Wigan midfield who were uncharacteristically sloppy, with too many overhit or misplaced passes, ceding possession back to the Tykes whose direct running and pace caused problems for the Wigan back four. From one such foray, Barnsley found themselves with the chance to equalise when Fletcher burst into the area and Warnock’s misplaced tackle saw the referee correctly point to the penalty spot.
Winnall passed the ball into into the bottom left hand corner sending Nicholls the wrong way and it was all square at the DW.
The home fans sat back expecting Wigan to step up a gear but it didn’t happen and Barnsley who needed the three points more than Wigan continued to press up onto Wigan’s ragged defence and it took a fine save from Nicholls, racing out from his goal line to block a shot from Winnall.
Barnsley weren’t to be denied though and once again poor defending saw Winnall in a goal scoring position and the Barnsley player shot past Nicholls to see Barnsley go in for the half time cuppa in the lead.
Wigan fans weren’t happy with the performance and it appears that neither was manager Caldwell who brought on Colclough and Wabara for Wildschut and Daniels although the majority of the team could have been replaced.
In recent games, Wigan have been buoyed by the half time team talk but not today, Barnsley continued to pour forwards and they were rewarded for their enterprising attacking play when Hourihane received a pass from Fletcher and beat Nicholls to celebrate in front of the massed ranks of the best away following at the DW this season.
Wigan were going through the motions of a beaten team looking forwards to a well earned end of season holiday and even though Colclough thought that he had scored, ( he was offside) it was Barnsley who completed the scoring from a free kick thirty yards out conceded by Colclough for a foul on Ipsgrove. Brownhill step up firing into the bottom corner past the despairing dive of Nicholls.
There was still more drama when McCann was sent off for a bad foul on Barnsley’s key player Hammill.
The full time whistle brought cheers from the massive eighteen thousand plus crowd, from the Barsnley fans for making the play offs and from the Wigan fans for securing a return to the Championship at the first attempt.
Line up and Player Ratings
Nicholls ……………4, short distribution puts defenders under pressure
Daniels……………..5, struggled when defending against pace, withdrawn
Pearce……………..6, one of the few who looked like today meant something
Morgan……………..5, looked unsure against pace
Warnock……………5, no complaints re penalty decision
Wildschut……………6, only creative outlet, surprisingly withdrawn
McCann…………….5, never got going and sent off near the end
Power………………..5, lacked his usual creative flair
Perkins………………6, never stopped trying, let down by those around him
Jacobs……………….5, just didn’t happen for him today, withdrawn
Grigg………………….6, great anticipation for the goal, starved of any quality supply
Colclough for Wildschut………5, offside, a lot
Wabara for Daniels……………5, little impact
Vuckic for Jacobs…………..5, game well over before he came on
Entertainment rating 3/10, big chance to pull part time supporters back next season and we blew it