Latics ended their Championship season on a high with a 1-0 victory against Millwall at the DW Stadium.
Joe Garner scored the only goal when he finished smartly after Nick Powell’s strike was parried by Millwall keeper David Martin.
The Lions had a goal disallowed when Ryan Leonard’s effort was ruled out for a foul on Jonas Olsson and Powell was later on hand to clear off the line from Jake Cooper’s goalbound strike.
But Latics enjoyed the greater possession and had more shots than the Lions and just about deserved to take the three points to continue their fine end of season form.
With important wins against Leeds, PNE and Millwall and draws against Norwich and Birmingham they have climbed to 18th in the final Championship table.
Paul Cook made four changes for the last match of the season with Christian Walton returning as keeper, Anthony Pilkington and Kal Naismith and Reece James coming in for Jamie Jones, Josh Windass, Nathan Byrne and Darron Gibson.
Latics started brightly and forced an early corner which Chey Dunkley headed just over the crossbar.
Millwall responded and former Latics loanee Ryan Tunnicliffe crossed for Lee Gregory but the striker’s effort was off target.
Latics then took control of the game creating several good goal scoring opportunities before taking the lead after 15 minutes.
Garner forced a good save from keeper Martin with a strike from 25-yards and Antonee Robinson crossed too powerfully for Pilkington, with Powell also well-placed for a cut back.
Soon afterwards a neat back heel by Naismith set up Powell who saw his powerful shot pushed out by Martin only for Garner to smash home the rebound.
Millwall had a chance to draw level as Steve Morison headed Shane Ferguson’s cross just over at the back post.
The Lions had a goal disallowed when Leonard’s effort was correctly ruled out for a foul on Jonas Olsson in the penalty area.
Latics then struggled to clear a Millwall corner but Powell was on hand to deny Cooper with a goal-line clearance.
The hosts went into the interval with a 1-0 advantage but the visitors should’ve drawn level early in the second-half after Gregory’s initial strike was well saved by Walton, Tunnicliffe blazed the follow up high and wide.
Prolific youth striker Charlie Jolley was handed his Latics debut on the hour mark replacing Pilkington, and he quickly showed he wasn’t afraid of the step up as he met Robinson’s cross but fired wide of the target.
Captain for the day Reece James was substituted with three minutes remaining and received a rapturous standing ovation from the home fans.
The almost impossible task to replace the Chelsea loanee will now commence but the impressive 19-year-old will surely become a Premier League and England star in the near future.
Neither side had been able to create any clear cut chances in the closing stages and Latics were able to hold on for the victory and maintain their good end of season form.
It’s been pleasing to see so many promising young players coming through from the Academy recently with Charlie Jolley, Joe Geldhardt and Jensen Weir all getting their Championship debuts.
On another positive note, rumours have been circulating that Nick Powell may decide to stay with Latics after he was offered an improved financial package.
The club will still need some significant additions if they are to challenge in the top half of the table next season but the prospects are now looking much better than they did just two months ago.