Blues opened the New Year with a loss to Wigan Athletic at the St. Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium.BCFC
Josh Windass bagged a brace for the Latics, with Cedric Kipre netting a third.
On a chilly Wednesday afternoon in the second city, Pep Clotet’s side struggled to find their rhythm in what was generally a scrappy affair and if truth be told they looked shaky defensively.
There were two changes made to the Blues starting line-up with Josh McEachran and Jeremie Bela replacing Wes Harding and Dan Crowley.
McEachran moved into the centre of midfield, with Gary Gardner dropping back into central defence alongside Harlee Dean.
Blues gave Wigan a scare within the opening 90 seconds after Bela’s initial attempt was blocked and the ball fell to Jude Bellingham well inside the Wigan area. But before the youngster could get his shot off the ball was cleared behind for a corner. Maxime Colin sent the resultant deadball into the far post where it was met by Lukas Jutkiewicz who headed his attempt wide.
Blues were attempting to play some slick passing football, although they were making a few too many errors when it came to the key pass at the end of the move.
And it was a mistake which cost the hosts as they fell behind after just nine minutes. Blues failed to clear the ball from just outside their own area, which allowed Joe Williams to collect it before sliding a simple pass into Windass who was coming in at the far post. His teammate made no mistake as he fired home from close range.
Bela then tested Wigan stopper Jamie Jones with a dipping shot after cutting in from the left flank, before Connal Trueman was forced into action for Blues at the other end of the pitch when he had to produce a diving save to deny Williams from 25 yards.
Buoyed by their goal the Latics were starting to play the ball around with a new-found confidence, albeit they seemed to be trying to slow the game down at every throw in and free kick.
And with just under half an hour played Wigan almost doubled their advantage. A long ball was chased down by Jamal Pedersen. Although Kristian Pedersen got a last ditch sliding tackle in, the ball fell to Williams. Williams advanced towards the Blues goal, but his shot was thwarted by Trueman who had come running out and pushed it behind for a corner.
The Blues ‘keeper then had to dive low to his left to direct a shot from Kipre behind.
But it was Blues that actually found themselves on the scoresheet next as Mrabti levelled after 39 minutes.
Pedersen’s pass found the Swedish forward who showed some neat footwork to spin away from Kipre inside the Wigan box before angling a low shot past Jones and into the far corner of the net.
Blues were continuing to be on the offensive and Harlee Dean tested Jones with a stinging shot just before the break.
Half-time: Blues 1 Wigan Athletic 1
With less than five minutes played of the second-half, the home crowd was left stunned after seeing their side fall behind for a second time. And once again it was Windass that did the damage.
A long ball – which incidentally looked offside – was lifted over the top of the Blues defence. Trueman rushed from his line and diverted Windass wide, but from an acute angle he found the back of the net via a deflection off Gardner at the near post.
Blues had the opportunity to respond within minutes, but Jutkiewicz sidefooted his chance to the right of the post when he really should have done better.
With time ticking on, Blues began to up the tempo as they went in search of an equaliser, but they were having little luck in meeting that final ball or cross.
And having failed to get back into it, it was as good as game over when Wigan scored for a third time after 73 minutes.
Wigan swung in a deep corner which found Evans, who headed it back into the fray. Jutkeiwicz attempted to head it away from the danger zone but it hit Kipre and rebounded into the net.
Blues were given a glimmer of hope when they pulled a goal back through Maghoma not long after he had joined the action from the substitutes’ bench.
Bellingham was the instigator as his cross from the left reached Jutkiewicz who nodded it down, and Maghoma was quickest to react before forcing the ball home.
Two minutes later Blues came close to levelling when Alvaro Gimenez headed excellently towards goal, but Jones was equal to it and saved well.
But that proved to be Blues’ last attempt on goal, and they must now lick their wounds and go again this weekend against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup third round.
Blues (4-4-2): Trueman, Pedersen, Colin, Jutkiewicz, Bela (Gimenez, 80), Dean, McEachran (Maghoma, 61), Mrabti (Montero, 70), G Gardner, Bellingham, Sunjic.
Subs not used: Camp (GK), Harding, Crowley, Davis.
Bookings: Montero (87)
Goals: Mrabti (39), Maghoma (81).
Wigan Athletic (4-2-3-1): Jones, Byrne, Robinson, Morsy, Evans, Lowe, Windass, Jacobs (Roberts, 60), Williams, Kipre, Naismith (Dunkley, h/t).
Subs not used: Marshall (GK), Pilkington, Massey, Garner, Gelhardt.
Bookings: Byrne (87)
Goals: Windass (9, 50), Kipre (73).
Referee: David Webb.
Attendance: 18, 616 (511 Wigan fans).