Wigan tried all they knew to avoid setting a horrible club record last night - without success. They have now lost eight successive League matches, and one in the FA Cup. For a while, especially after Emile Heskey had given them a third-minute lead, it looked as if they might manage a surprise against the newly promoted team who aregiving a passable imitation of what they achieved the season before.
But a Reading recovery that culminated in a controversial third goal three minutes from time by Leroy Lita rendered Denny Landzaat's 94th-minute effort an irrelevance and ensured that Wigan continue to resemble a falling weight.
As Wigan's manager Paul Jewell pointed out, if this had been a match last season his team would probably have converted many more of the chances they created in a first half they began with genuine cause for hope. Now they face what he describes as "a right battle" to avoid a return to the Championship. "It's going to go all the way to the wire," Jewell said. "And we've got to be up for it."
Before and after Heskey was allowed time to jog on to Lee McCulloch's long ball and drive inWigan's first Premiership goal since Boxing Day, the visitors might have had other goals, notably when their debutant forward Caleb Folan, bought for £500,000 from Chesterfield, volleyed against the bar.
Reading's defence, missing the injured Ibrahima Sonko, looked uncertain, with the replacement Andre Bikey looking more uncertain than most. The news that the home team had beaten Charlton and Middlesbrough to the services of Colchester United's 22-year-old defender Greg Halford for a club-record fee of £2.5m, and also signed the 25-year-old defender Alan Bennett from Cork City for £200,000, was beginning to acquire a strong resonance.
The home side eventually responded, equalising just after the half-hour. Nicky Shorey's free-kick from the left was directed away from the danger zone by Folan's head, but Lita chased the lost cause and hooked the ball over his shoulder towards goal. The Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland could only parry the ball onwards and upwards, and Ivar Ingimarsson won the scramble for it to nod in an equaliser.
It took Reading only six minutes of the second half to take the lead as Stephen Hunt's chip to the far post allowed Shane Long to head home after Kirkland had punched the ball weakly to the Irishman's feet.
Lita's goal appeared a luxury but turned out be a necessity. When Graeme Murty's cross came in from the right, both he and Dave Kitson appeared offside, but Lita was on hand to force the ball home after Kitson's header was blocked. Landzaat then struck at the near post but there was no time for an equaliser.
At the final whistle, Jewell voiced his displeasure to the linesman over Reading's third goal. The home manager Steve Coppell said he had not seen a replay of it, but acknowledged that the offside rule currently had its grey areas. Wigan will hope now for fireworks from their other new signing from Donetsk, Julius Agahowa. Coppell says he has "one more deal" to settle before the transfer window closes.
Goals: Heskey (3) 0-1; Ingimarsson (31) 1-1; Long (51) 2-1; Lita (88) 3-1; Landzaat (90) 3-2.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Ingimarsson, Bikey, Shorey; Little, Sidwell, Harper, Hunt; Lita, Long (Kitson, 80). Substitutes not used: Federici, Oster, De la Cruz, Pearce.
Wigan Athletic: Kirkland; Taylor, Boyce, Unsworth (Jackson, 69), Baines; Valencia, Landzaat, Skoko, McCulloch (Johansson, 65); Folan, Heskey (Kilbane, 58). Substitutes not used: Filan, Granqvist.
Booked: Reading Long; Wigan Folan.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Man of the match: Hunt (Reading).
Attendance: 21,954.Reuse content