I consider myself to be an optimistic Rovers fan, but my expectations for this fixture against high-flying Wigan Athletic could not have been lower.
This uncharacteristic pessimism seemed justified when James McClean’s corner was flicked into the net by Max Power to put Wigan ahead in just the 11th minute. Callum Lang then bamboozled Branden Horton and crossed for a loosely marked Will Keane, but the striker headed over with the goal at his mercy.
Rovers improved as half time approached and their best chance came when the hard-working Joe Dodoo found Tommy Rowe, whose powerful shot was blocked.
Hopes of a turnaround suffered a substantial setback in the 54th minute, as Keane atoned for his earlier miss by scoring with a close-range header, but Rovers responded swiftly. Omar Bogle, a 60th minute substitute, halved Wigan’s lead moments after coming on when he met Ethan Galbraith’s delivery in a chaotic penalty area.
Wigan comfortably held on to their reduced lead with a combination of undoubted footballing skill and dedication to meticulously drying the ball before each throw-in. Controversy ensued as a Rovers youth team player and a disgruntled fan temporarily confiscated two pitchside Wigan towels. Meanwhile, on the pitch, Rovers failed to create another noteworthy goalscoring opportunity.
Unfortunately, narrow, industrious defeats like this yield the same number of points as the abject capitulations Rovers have produced too often in the last year. The resilience Rovers demonstrated during this performance against strong opposition may, however, be something to build on.