BOTH ROCHDALE and WIGAN can focus on what promises to be a crucial end to their league campaigns after bowing out of the FA Cup at the weekend.
Dale are well placed to challenge for promotion from League One this season and also reached the 4th round of the FA Cup for the 3rd time in 4 years.
They were at home to Championship high-flyers Huddersfield, who brought 3,471 fans over the Pennines with them. That contributed to a total gate of 7,431, and they saw Dale make the better start, with Peter Vincenti missing their best chance as he headed over from a Reuben Noble-Lazarus cross.
But Dale were undone on 42 minutes as keeper Conrad Logan’s poor goal-kick went straight to a Huddersfield player, who put Izzy Brown through to square for Colin Quaner to tap into an empty net.
Harrison McGahey was then deemed to have pushed Mark Hudson from a 66th-minute corner, with Brown sidefooting in the penalty. And Logan was unable to keep out sub Michael Hefele’s header from a 72nd-minute free-kick before the makeshift striker sidefooted home on the break on 84 minutes.
Dale boss Keith Hill said: “If we’d scored it would have been a different game. The only goal of theirs I could really applaud was the fourth because the other three were down to mistakes.”
That made it consecutive 4-0 home defeats for Dale after winning their previous 10 league games at the Crown Oil Arena. But they have a great chance to get back on track as they now have 2 home games in 4 days.
Dale still occupy the final play-off spot and Saturday sees them host Bristol Rovers, who are 3 points behind them in 8th. Karl Robinson then brings a resurgent Charlton to Spotland on Tuesday night.
Huddersfield, meanwhile, were handed a home tie against Man City in Monday night’s 5th-round draw while Dale signed keeper Ben Wilson on loan from Cardiff to the end of the season. Logan, 30, only signed a new deal earlier this month, which runs till the summer, but boss Hill has now brought in Wilson, 24, who has only played 3 games for Cardiff this term.
Warren Joyce has also been busy in his first transfer window as WIGAN boss. The former Bolton midfielder, who hails from Oldham, took over from Gary Caldwell in November after leaving his role as reserve-team coach at Man United.
Latics are battling to avoid slipping straight back out of the Championship and their win over Nottingham Forest was not only rewarded with a 4th-round trip to Man United but it also sparked a run of 3 straight wins, going on to beat Burton and Brentford in the league.
It was a swift return to Old Trafford for Joyce and a daunting prospect for Latics as United had won 17 of their previous 18 meetings and there being.
But in front of 75,229, Wigan gave a good account of themselves, with Callum Connolly and Max Power both testing United keeper Sergio Romero in the first half, while Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan went close at the other end.
The Premier League giants made the breakthrough on 44 minutes as Marouane Fellaini held off Connolly to head home from Bastian Schweinsteiger’s cross, although David Perkins went close to equalising after the break.
However, Chris Smalling got in front of Stephen Warnock to head home from Anthony Martial’s 57th-minute cross. Martial then squared for Mkhitaryan to score on the break on 74 minutes before Schweinsteiger hooked the ball in from an 81st-minute corner.
Joyce said: “For the first 60 minutes I thought we gave as good as we got. We had the best opportunities that were carved through good football and clever play, but conceded two goals from balls into the box that you get every week in the Championship.”
Smalling added: “Since Joycey’s gone in there we know that they’re a hard team to beat, and that’s what we faced in the first half. In the second half it opened up but we’ve seen this weekend that a lot of top teams have gone out so it’s good that we’re still in the Cup.”
Liverpool were the biggest scalp from the weekend, being knocked out at home to Wolves, who were rewarded with a home tie against Chelsea, while United are away to Blackburn.