Barnsley 0, Wigan 2: Latics spoil Christmas for Reds boss Lee Johnson

Adam Hammill argues with Barnsley fans at the end of the game
Adam Hammill argues with Barnsley fans at the end of the game

It’s set to be a miserable Christmas for Lee Johnson, with his Barnsley side remaining worryingly in the Sky Bet League One drop zone after yet another defeat.

Ahead of a crucial period of festive season matches, it must feel like a case of one step forward and two steps back for the beleagured Reds manager.

Donervon Daniels beats Simeon Jackson to the ball

Donervon Daniels beats Simeon Jackson to the ball

Following their record-busting run of losses spanning October and November, Barnsley had seemingly begun to turn a corner with victories at Oldham and Colchester, and also by booking a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy northern final place.

However, the Reds slumped at Oakwell again on Saturday, leaving them still without any home comfort in the league since way back in September.

Against play-off chasing Wigan it was almost the same old story.

Nowhere near enough creativity and without a true cutting edge up front, the Reds are also prone to mistakes at the back, with the result being a defeat and more choruses of boos at the final whistle.

Lee Johnson looks on in despair as his team lose again at home 'Picture Dean Atkins

Lee Johnson looks on in despair as his team lose again at home 'Picture Dean Atkins

Troubled times have returned for Johnson, who admitted: “You have to appreciate that Wigan are a good side with huge resources for the division, but although our lads gave it a go, we didn’t quite have the quality on the day.

“It was always going to be crucial whoever scored the first goal, and when they got it, it was a disappointing one to concede.

“There had been a couple of warning shots from both sides, but overall we huffed and we puffed without really producing on the day.

“Individual errors are difficult to eradicate, but these are our players and we have to keep supporting them.

Barnsley's Aidan White is chopped down by Donervon Daniels' Picture Dean Atkins

Barnsley's Aidan White is chopped down by Donervon Daniels' Picture Dean Atkins

“They don’t mean to make mistakes of course, but we’ve got to be stronger.

“We’re a big club for this division. with a fantastic home support, so we have to be mentally stronger. We need to snuff out any loose minds.”

The Reds boss made just a single alteration to his starting line-up in the wake of the gritty victory at Colchester seven days earlier, but it was a rather surprising one.

Central defender Kevin Long was drafted straight back into the side after missing the previous three games through suspension, though it was skipper Alfie Mawson who made way.

He was named among a list of substitutes that again included the fit-again Ryan Williams.

Conor Hourihane wore the captain’s armband.

Gary Caldwell made four changes to his team on the back of a dismal home defeat by crisis club Blackpool, with Andy Kellett, Donervon Daniels, Michael Jacobs and club captain Craig Morgan all earning recalls.

It was a terrific opening to the game from both sides on a dark and gloomy afternoon at Oakwell.

Both sides opened with purpose and enterprise, with Ivan Toney going close early on as he flicked Marley Watkins’ low cross into the side-netting.

Wigan replied with Will Grigg firing straight at ‘keeper Adam Davies. The visiting striker then somehow managed to plant a free header wide from barely eight yards.

Back came the Reds, and after Adam Hammill had gone close with a speculative 25-yard strike, Sam Winnall headed a whisker over the top as he darted in to meet Hammill’s smart cross.

The deadlock was broken in the 19th minute by 2013 FA Cup winners Wigan.

Michael Jacobs produced a measured through-ball to release Andy Kellett, and the young defender clipped a cute effort over Davies and into the gaping goal to register his first Athletic goal.

The second half began encouragingly for the Reds, with skipper Hourihane lashing a right-footed strike wide, but the visitors quickly got back into a good rhythm and Max Power came close to doubling his side’s lead when he curled an effort a whisker wide.

The Reds’ game became more and more fragmented, while Wigan’s players appeared to grow in confidence the closer it came to the final whistle.

Kellett missed a one-on-one opportunity when he stormed clear only to be thwarted by the outstretched leg of Davies, before the hosts’ best two chances of hauling themselves level came and went midway through the second half.

Both times Winnall was guilty of mis-cued efforts as a miserable day continued.

The final insult came with four minutes to go when Wigan made it 2-0 in routine fashion.

Lewin Nyatanga and Alex Revell clashed as they jumped to meet ‘keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen’s long punt forward, and the Reds’ remaining defenders stood almost motionless.

Sub Yanic Wildschut, who had only been on the field for three minutes, was alert to the threat, and nipped in to knock the loose ball past Davies and slot calmly into an unguarded Reds goal.

That was ‘game over’ and, as the boos rang out at the final whistle, Johnson’s Christmas had just been ruined.

BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Davies 6; Wabara 5, Long 7, Nyatanga 5, White 7; Watkins 5 (Williams 66, 7), Pearson 5, Hourihane 7, Hammill 7; Toney 5 (Jackson 75, 5), Winnall 6.

Subs not used: Townsend, Mawson, Isgrove, Bree, Abbott.

BOOKED: None.

WIGAN (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen 7; James 6, Pearce 7, Daniels 6, Kellett 8 (Revell 62, 5); Love 7 (Chow 75, 5), Power 8, Perkins 7, Morgan 5, Jacobs 8; Grigg 7 (Wildschut 83, 7).

Subs not used: Nicholls, Barnett, Davies, Hiwula.

BOOKED: Pearce (3), Daniels (59).

REF: Sebastian Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear).

ATTENDANCE: 8,866.