An outstanding team performance gave Wigan a comfortable 3-0 victory against relegation rivals Reading at the Madejski Stadium. Two goals by Arouna Kone and another by Maynor Figueroa rounded off a fantastic day for the Latics fans.
Roberto Martinez welcomed Emmerson Boyce to the starting line-up in place of Ronnie Stam and Antolin Alcaraz made the bench for the first time since his injury way back in September. Reading manager Brian McDermott decided to play Sean Morrision instead of Alex Pearce in defence.
With Reading already two points ahead of Wigan in the table, both managers would have been well aware that a Royals win would give them a five point lead over the Latics.
Both teams started tentatively with Reading playing five across midfield and Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak ploughing a lone furrow up front. Wigan had a more flexible attacking formation with Kone and Franco Di Santo well supported by Shaun Maloney.
Any Royals fans hoping for home onslaught were to be disappointed as Latics showed their intentions early in the game. Franco Di Santo could have given them the lead as early as the 5th minute when he drove towards the Reading goal before unleashing a powerful low drive which Adam Federici did well to turn around the post for a corner.
Jimmy Kebe did pose an initial threat on the right hand side and he flashed a shot into the Wigan side netting and Paul Scharner provided a timely interception to deny Pogrebnyak before Wigan managed to take a firm grip on proceedings.
Just before half time Wigan took control by scoring two goals in the space of just two minutes. On 44 minutes Gary Caldwell met a Jean Beausejour corner and knocked the ball towards Figueroa and the Honduran’s header was chested into the Reading net by Kone. TV replays showed there was a suspicion of hand ball by Caldwell but a minute later Wigan were two ahead.
Di Santo fed Beausejour in his own half and the Chilean wing back played a sublime cross field pass to Kone and who took the ball forward into the box before chipping the ball over Federici and into the net.
Early in the second half Wigan carved open the Reading defence to cement the three points. Figueroa played a neat one two with Di Santo on the edge of the Reading box before the Honduran defender nutmegged the advancing Reading keeper.
Soon afterwards a petulant Pavel Pogrebnyak was rightly red carded when he stamped on Figueroa on the half way line. The referee took his time to give the card but it appeared that he was checking with the fourth official before determining the severity of the Russian’s punishment.
The game was effectively over as a contest and Wigan proceeded to dominate possession and pass the home team into submission. Reading could not manage to summon a shot on target throughout the 90 minutes much to the chagrin of the home supporters.
Franco Di Santo nearly added a fourth goal but he couldn’t quite reach a fine whipped cross by Emmerson Boyce. Figueroa and substitute Jordi Gomez also brought full stretch saves from Federici as Wigan went in search of more goals.
It was perhaps surprising that Wigan were unable to add to their tally given their supremacy. However, prior to the game most fans would not have expected such a thoroughly dominant display.
This result and the failure of their rivals takes Wigan out of the bottom three and above QPR, Reading and Aston Villa. The result was critical but the quality of this performance can only give the players increased confidence that they can put together another winning run to secure their top flight status.