Arsenal’s Premier Reserve League title bid was dealt a huge blow this afternoon, as the Gunners lost 2-1 to Wigan Athletic. A second half Callum McManaman strike combined with a late Joe Holt effort gave the Latics the win, despite a Rhys Murphy penalty.
Neil Banfield was able to call upon considerable experience for the game, with 41-year-old Jens Lehmann dropping down from the first-team. Jérémie Aliadière, back training with the club, was granted a Reserves registration and also started.
ARSENAL: Lehmann; Hajrovic, Boateng, Miquel, Meade; Rees, Ebecilio; Murphy, Henderson, Freeman; Aliadière.
WIGAN: Welsby; Buxton, Mustoe, Chow, Golobart; Robinson, Myler, Breeze, Rugg; Redmond, McManaman.
Arsenal may have had renewed optimism after their 2-1 win over Liverpool, but it was Wigan who snapped out of the traps quicker, forcing an early corner. Lehmann got his first touch as he punched clear.
The visitors then began to settle, and hit Wigan on the break for their opening chance. A flowing move saw Aliadière and Freeman combine, until a cynical foul from Buxton ended the move. Henderson’s resulting free-kick lashed against the wall.
Wigan had a set piece of their shortly after. Redmond showed Henderson how its done, as his curling ball picked out McManaman in the box. He pulled off his man and headed beyond Lehmann and into the net. The offside flag came to Arsenal’s rescue. Jens reacted by bellowing instructions to the young defence in front of him.
The messages didn’t seem to be taken on board, as moments later Arsenal were carved open. Miquel panicked and clipped down Myler, and a the referee adjudged he was the last man. A straight red card for the captain.
Lehmann was then involved in the final two incidents of the half. He first saved brilliantly from a Rugg effort from a yard out, then he kicked thin air when attempting to lash a back pass up field. It proved to be an eventful end to a half of few chances.
The second period promised to be the same, but on 53 minutes, Wigan found a break through. Lehmann again sliced a back pass and the hosts won a corner. After keeping possession well, Redmond slipped in McManaman, and he finished well beyond the on rushing German for 1-0.
McManaman almost had a second three minutes later, but the cross bar came to Arsenal’s rescue, after a powerful drive from inside the box. The Gunners were holding on, and should have been 2-0 down when Lehmann came racing out and lost the ball, only for Breeze to have his shot blocked on the line by Boateng.
Freeman and Aliadière had half chances, but the win was sealed in the 83rd minute, then Holt rounded Lehmann and tapped home. 2-0. It was a bitter blow.
A stoppage time penalty from Murphy made it 2-1, but the defeat leaves Arsenal needing an almost flawless finish to the season if they want to win the Premier Reserve League title.