Wigan Athletic extended their unbeaten run to 7 games by putting Accrington Stanley to the sword with a 3-0 victory. 9,139 supporters were in attendance to see Latics take 1 step closer towards promotion as we racked up our 5th consecutive Tuesday night victory, suggesting the early season curse has been lifted!
Latics made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Bolton, with Kell Watts and Joe Bennett replacing the injured Curtis Tilt and James McClean. Jordan Cousins, who hasn’t been involved in a matchday squad since October, made his way onto the bench as did Jamie McGrath who will both be useful for the run in.
The opening stages of the game were anything but positive for the home side, with plenty of misplaced passes and poor touches hampering us early on. A key moment came when Joe Bennett’s pass fell short of Max Power who proceeded to tell the left back exactly what he thought of him. The effect it seemed to have on Bennett and the team as a whole was a positive one and demonstrated the captain like qualities Power possesses.
The first half an hour was pretty much all Accrington, but out of nowhere Latics grabbed the opening goal.
Good build up play saw Callum Lang pick the ball up 25 yards from goal, and his quick turn drew a foul from Stanley defender Michael Nottingham. Joe Bennett stepped up and whipped the resulting free kick into the top corner, leaving Toby Savin with no chance.
It’s fair to say the goal came out of nowhere but it highlighted the quality Latics have all over the pitch and the ability we have to take the lead from nothing. It was imperative that we improved our all round performance and extended the lead as Accrington had looked dangerous in the early exchanges.
Thankfully this is exactly what happened. More excellent build up play resulted in Max Power receiving the ball in the right half space. The Accrington defence gave him far too much time and allowed him to deliver a delicious ball in towards Josh Magennis. The Northern Irishman connected with an incredible header from 12 yards that flew past Savin into the net.
Latics went into the break 2-0 up but it could be argued they didn’t deserve to be. Apart from a Joe Bennett header that went agonisingly wide we had scored the two opportunities that came our way in the first half whereas Accrington had squandered the 3 or 4 they created.
The away side made changes in the second half to try and find a way back into the game but to no avail. In fact it was Latics, who made no changes till the 81st minute, that grabbed the 3rd goal of a game. Its fair to say it wasn’t as brilliant a goal as the first 2 where mind you!
Max Power’s tame free kick went straight at Toby Savin, but the young Stanley ‘keeper dropped the ball right at the feet of Will Keane who tapped home his easiest of 20 league goals this season.
At 3-0 Latics played their best football of the game and can count themselves unlucky that they didn’t extend the lead. The main thing is that we remained defensively sound and preserved the clean sheet which will be a massive help for our goal difference come the end of the season.
Post match both managers seemed to agree that the only difference between the two sides on the night was the clinical finishing of Latics. John Coleman went on to say he expects Wigan to go up and praised Leam for his squad building abilities.
“Fair play to them, because I hear time and time again teams complaining about them spending money. Listen, if you’ve got the money, spend it…but spend it wisely. And give Leam his due, he has spent it wisely.”
Player of the Match
When a left back leaves the game feeling disappointed that he hasn’t scored a hat-trick you know they’ve been heavily involved in the game in a positive way. Joe Bennett put in his best performance in a Latics shirt to date and is deserving of the player of the match award.
Bennett had Latics first chance of the game when he ghosted in at the back post to head Tendayi Darikwa’s cross just wide of the far post. Thankfully 10 minutes later the 32 year old made amends when he curled home a delicious free kick to set the home side on their way to victory. He could’ve scored again in the second half but his effort was well blocked.
Defensively Bennett helped keep things tidy with 3 recoveries, 2 aerial duels won and 1 ground duel won. With James McClean’s season all but over it looks as though Bennett is the first choice LWB for the run in and with performances like this you can absolutely see why.
Another one ticked off! These last few games have shown the experience and know-how of the Latics squad as we move ever closer towards promotion back to the Championship. It’s imperative that we continue the momentum we’ve built over these past few weeks and take it into the upcoming games, starting with Lincoln on Saturday.
Over 1,200 Tics fans are making the trip to Sincil Bank this weekend hoping that we continue our brilliant form. See you there, up the Tics!