* Match report by Jamie Aspinall.
Wigan Athletic’s newly revealed mascot Crusty the Pie seems to have grabbed the attention of the media and was on show to cheer on the team as Latics served up another opening day victory.
Paul Cook seems to know the recipe for winning the first game of the season as it’s his third win in successive seasons since taking charge.
An entertaining, end-to-end game saw Cardiff take the lead after 20 minutes through Joe Ralls, however Wigan went ahead in the second half with two smart finishes from Michael Jacobs and Windass, before former Latic, Omar Bogle levelled with 20 minutes remaining.
It required a delicious, curling finish from Lee Evans into the top corner to seal the 3-2 win for the home side.
The game was lively throughout with lots of attacking play from both sides and the energy was high. Cardiff were lucky to have eleven men on the pitch in the first ten minutes, as Joe Ralls could easily have seen red for a meaty challenge on Evans.
After ten minutes Jacobs showed great tenacity with fast, interchanging play with Windass before laying the ball off to Antonee Robinson to cross the ball into Anthony Pilkington who was inches away from connecting for a tap-in.
Jacobs continued to impress with his trickery and perfectly weighted through balls and along with Windass and Robinson, Latics were producing the majority of the attacking play.
However, it was Cardiff who took the lead. Goalkeeper David Marshall, in his first game for Wigan since signing from Hull City, was only able to parry a succession of shots into the path of the opposition before Joe Ralls calmly slotted a half volley past the despairing keeper and his covering defenders.
Marshall will be disappointed he didn’t clear the danger however his performance improved as the game went on.
This didn’t stop Latics from pushing forward. Twenty three minutes in, Robinson crossed for Joe Garner who volleyed a shot towards goal to try to level the score.
The striker was convinced that the defensive block by Aden Flint was with his hand but it was hard to tell due to the proximity of the block. Paul Cook appeared to be outraged as he was shown a yellow card for arguing with the fourth official.
As the first half came to a close Latics were probably unlucky to go into the break a goal down.
Cook spoke after the game about how his team had struggled to pick themselves up after knock-backs and had worked hard in pre-season to be mentally stronger to fight back during games.
This certainly appeared to have helped as the players didn’t seem phased in the second half.
It was Cardiff who had the best chance early on after the break when Bobby Reid fired just wide of the post.
Fortunately for Latics he did not convert the chance and almost immediately after, Windass was through on goal at the other end and was brought to the ground by a clumsy challenge from Morrison.
Windass had been too hot to handle for most of the game but couldn’t keep his cool to convert the resulting penalty as he fired his low shot against the post.
To give credit to Windass he kept persevering, and almost ten minutes later his free kick was more fortunate than his penalty and bounced off the wall, straight into the path of Jacobs to equalize.
The former Rangers striker was again in on the action when he received the ball in the box and rather than choose to shoot first time, he stayed composed, brought the ball down and picked his moment to drill his shot into the far corner to give Latics a 2-1 lead.
The game had all the ingredients of a thriller, and it was no surprise when former Wigan striker Omar Bogle was introduced after 64 minutes and caused his old club problems.
He immediately forced his way past Nathan Byrne on the left side and his cross was destined to find a Cardiff forward until Marshall stretched out an arm to divert the ball for a corner.
Bogle only needed a further few minutes before he was able to goad the home fans after he was left unmarked in the centre of the area and volleyed in a cross from the left at close range.
Latics’ defending was non-existent and Bogle made sure he rubbed salt into the wound by putting his hand to his ear to celebrate in front of the home supporters.
The hosts had had the majority of the forward play and with twenty minutes to go could easily have crumbled after the Cardiff comeback. But unlike some Latics’ teams of previous seasons, the chances kept coming and they kept surging forward.
After only five minutes of the equalizer Evans found himself with space on the edge of the box and completely out of the blue, found the sweet spot of his boot and unleashed an incredible curling shot into the top corner.
It was no more than Latics deserved and it was a perfect winning goal for what was an enthralling game.
Latics introduced new signing Jamal Lowe after 77 Minutes and have another signing in the oven, as they hope to bring Barnsley striker Keiffer Moore to the DW Stadium.
With these healthy additions, Cook appears to be building a stronger squad for this season after consolidating in the Championship last season, and the signs are certainly promising.
The new additions will also give him food for thought when selecting his best starting line-up and it will be interesting to see if the new players can help Latics to rise up the Championship table.