Wigan 1-0 Millwall: Joe Garner hits winner as Latics end season on a high
Wigan finish 18th in the Sky Bet Championship as Millwall end the season 21st.
Last Updated: 05/05/19 4:33pm
Joe Garner's first-half goal ensured Wigan finished their Sky Bet Championship campaign on a high with a 1-0 home victory over Millwall.
Paul Cook's men had been in danger of facing the drop until as recently as Easter but an impressive end to the season saw them finish a dozen places above the relegation zone.
With neither time having anything, only pride, to play for, there was predictably a flat atmosphere inside the DW Stadium in the early stages.
Millwall were the first to threaten, with former Latics loanee Ryan Tunnicliffe's cross finding Lee Gregory, whose shot was off target.
At the other end, Garner's shot from 25 yards was parried out by David Martin, but Wigan could not capitalise.
Antonee Robinson then made headway down the left, and his cross was only just in front of Anthony Pilkington, who would have had a tap-in.
But Wigan were not to be denied and, after Nick Powell's shot was parried out by Martin, Garner smashed home with his left foot for what proved to be the only goal of the game.
Garner and Powell were dovetailing nicely in attack, and the former was claiming a penalty after seeing another goalbound shot seemingly blocked by a hand, but the official waved play on.
Millwall thought they had equalised through Ryan Leonard, from Shaun Williams' corner, only for the official to blow his whistle for a free-kick.
The visitors came closer still when Jake Cooper stabbed the ball goalwards, only for Powell to hack the ball away off the Wigan line.
Millwall started the second period in similarly bright fashion, with Christian Walton having to make a magnificent save to deny Gregory, with Tunnicliffe firing the rebound well wide.
It was not Gregory's day, with the striker somehow managing to fail to convert what looked to be a perfect cross from Tunnicliffe.
Wigan also remained a threat, and a sliced volley from Lee Evans turned out to be a fabulous assist for Pilkington, who slotted home - but the flag was up for offside.
The home side sent on 17-year-old Charlie Jolley for his debut, and the youngster immediately tried his luck with a couple of long-range shots.
Wigan also sent on Callum McManaman - out of contract this summer - for the last 15 minutes.
And there were even more emotional scenes with a couple of minutes left as on-loan Chelsea star Reece James - who was made captain for the day - was substituted to a standing ovation.
Paul Cook: "I'm delighted for the players, I really am. The home form's been so good, especially in the latter stages of the season. In fact, it's probably been up there with some of the teams that have made it to the play-offs.
"Unfortunately the away form - with the same players and the same habits - hasn't been as good, and that's been a challenge.
"But to end up with 52 points in this league, it's such a reward for the efforts we've put in as a group and a staff."
Neil Harris: "I have to say I quite enjoyed the game…as a neutral it was quite entertaining. It could have been 4-4 in the end if both sides had taken their chances.
"We created opportunities…there was Ryan Tunnicliffe's open-goal miss…but it wasn't to be. We played a little bit more expansive football than we have done in the last period.
"I wanted the players to pass the ball a bit more than we have been doing, and I knew it would leave us open at the other end.
"But I thought some of our football was outstanding, we got into some good areas, but didn't get the ball in the net.
"It's another close game we've lost this season - nothing in the game and yet again we've fallen on the wrong side of the scoreline.
"So many times that's happened this season, and that's where you need slightly better players than what you've got."