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Tuesday 25 September 2018

Latics need Rub' of green to progress

Wigan Athletic's James McClean (right). Photo: Reuters/ Nigel Roddis
Wigan Athletic's James McClean (right). Photo: Reuters/ Nigel Roddis

OWEN COYLE was left hoping for a favour after Wigan spurned the chance to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League.

The Latics knew before kick-off against Zulte Waregem that victory would book their spot in the last 32 with one Group D match to spare.

Everything looked positive when Leon Barnett gave the hosts the lead in the seventh minute, but they missed several chances to extend their advantage and then shot themselves in the foot.

Thorgan Hazard's shot was spilled into his own net by goalkeeper Lee Nicholls for the equaliser in the 37th minute and two minutes from time Junior Malanda earned Zulte a 2-1 win.

Francky Dury's side are now in pole position to join Rubin Kazan in the knockout stages, with Wigan needing to beat Maribor in Slovenia in their final group game and hope table-toppers Rubin can defeat Zulte.

Latics boss Owen Coyle said: "Our destiny was in our own hands and that's what we wanted going into the final game. We knew it was going to be a tough game but we performed very well against a team who qualified for the Champions League this year and are well placed to qualify for it again.

"We have to go to Maribor and win, which we're more than capable of doing, and hope that Rubin Kazan win in Belgium."

Nicholls came into the side a month ago after Scott Carson suffered an ankle injury and had made a very good impression but there was no hiding place yesterday for the 21-year-old, who had not had a shot to save before Hazard's effort.

The Belgian struck the effort well but Nicholls was made to regret trying to catch the ball instead of pushing it over the bar.

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