Wigan’s dream of a third Football League Trophy success is alive and kicking after they overcame Crewe 3-2 in a roller coaster encounter at the Alexandra Stadium.
Latics had previously won the trophy when it was the Freight Rover Trophy in 1985 and the Auto Windscreen Shield in 1999 and they are hoping to get to Wembley again this season.
In a match with numerous goalscoring opportunities for both teams, Latics twice came from behind to seal their progress into Saturday’s Northern Area quarter-final draw.
In the first minute Latics had an opportunity to take the lead when Samni Odelusi had his penalty saved by Ben Garrett. On six minutes Crewe went ahead through Marcus Haber after a mistake by Jack Hendry, before Wigan drew level through Jordy Hiwula’s attempted overhead kick.
Ryan Colclough fired the home team ahead before the interval after more poor Latics defending by Hendry and Daniels, but they managed to draw level again on 70 minutes after Hiwula got on the end of Wildschut’s cross.
Latics sealed their progress into next round on 76 minutes when Wildschut produced a stunning thunderbolt from 25 yards into the top corner of the Alex net.
Gary Caldwell made five changes for the game, which is the maximum allowed under the JPT competition rules.
Michael Jacobs, David Perkins and Reece James were left out, along with Will Grigg who is on international duty with Northern Ireland, and the suspended Craig Morgan.
Into the team came Jack Hendry, Andy Kellett, Yanic Wildschut, Francisco Junior and Sanmi Odelusi.
The match opened in dramatic fashion in the first minute when Odelusi was brought down in the area by John Guthrie. The former Bolton player stepped up and took the spot kick but his effort was well saved by Garrett in the Alex goal.
To compound the miss Crewe went ahead on 6 minutes following a mistake by debutant defender Jack Hendry. Bradden Inman dispossessed Hendry as he tried to shield the ball and pulled the ball back to Haber who finished with ease.
Fortunately Latics struck back quickly on 10 minutes when Max Power’s corner was headed on by Hendry and Wildschut got a touch before Hiwula’s attempted overhead kick found a way into the net.
Latics were now enjoying plenty of possession and laid siege to the Railwaymens goal. First Power’s strike was deflected just over the crossbar, then Hiwula hit the side netting, before Daniels cross cum shot hit the crossbar.
Wigan were in the ascendancy but they once again went behind on 36 minutes following some sloppy defending. Daniels, Hendry and Jaaskelainen were all culpable as Colclough was allowed to fire home from close range.
Wigan started the second half brightly with Hiwula forcing a save from Garrett and Wildschut firing into the side netting.
Grant Holt replaced the disappointing Odelusi on 53 minutes and the former Norwich City striker then set about making a nuisance of himself for the rest of the game.
There was an accidental collision between George Ray and Francisco Junior on 60 minutes and the Crewe defender appeared to be unconscious for a considerable time. After treatment from the medical team on the pitch he was stretchered off and taken to hospital in an ambulance.
After a lengthy delay the match continued with Wigan pressing and they were rewarded on 70 minutes. Daniels smashed a shot against the post and the ball rebounded to substitute Don Cowie and the Scot fed Wildschut whose low cross was finished by Hiwula from close range.
On 76 minutes Latics dramatically went ahead. The Middlesbrough loanee Wildschut made a powerful run towards the Alexandra goal and produced an unstoppable strike from 25 yards.
The Railwaymen had not given up however, and Latics had to endure a nervy end to the game.
Haber was given the freedom of the Wigan penalty area on 87 minutes but he somehow put his effort over the crossbar when it seemed easier to score.
In ten minutes of stoppage time Crewe had two more chances. Jaaskelainen was forced to save another shot from Haber and substitute Dalla Valle headed over with the Wigan back line nowhere to be seen.
In a highly entertaining game Wigan had progressed to the next round, but Gary Caldwell will be aware there is a significant amount of improvement required in defensive areas if the club is to be successful in league and cup this season.