Latics grind out important win in battle for survival – Wigan Athletic 1 Millwall 0

Leon Balogun Brighton loanee Leon Balogun impressed in defence. Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic secured a vital three points against Millwall in their battle for Championship survival.

Anthony Pilkington’s cross was turned into his own net by Shaun Hutchinson in the 57th minute and it was enough for Latics to reduce the gap to Championship safety to just two points.

In difficult conditions Latics had the greater possession and more shots but the visitors had several presentable opportunities to gain at least a point.

Latics central defenders Leon Balogun and Cedric Kipre made goal saving blocks and the Lions striker Tom Bradshaw missed a glorious chance when keeper David Marshall dropped Jed Wallace’s cross.

Latics remain in 22nd spot but are now only two points behind 21st placed Huddersfield. Millwall meanwhile drop to 11th in the table.

Paul Cook made two changes from last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Cardiff with Michael Jacobs and Anthony Pilkington replacing Gavin Massey and Lee Evans.

The Latics manager had been banished to the stands on his birthday after a succession of touchline bookings and had to watch the game from high up in the West Stand gantry.

In difficult conditions neither team really threatened in the early stages as they cancelled each other out.

The first major incident occurred on the half hour mark as Nathan Byrne fouled Ryan Woods on the edge of the area and despite the Millwall players appeals for a penalty referee Jeremy Simpson awarded a free kick.

Jed Wallace’s resulting effort was comfortably saved by keeper Marshall.

Both teams struggled to create chances in an uninspiring first half, all level at the interval.

Millwall had a great opportunity to go ahead early in the second-half when Marshall spilled a cross from the right and Bradshaw was on hand but he somehow failed to hit the target from close range.

At the other end Latics threatened when Pilkington’s shot was deflected narrowly wide of Bartosz Bialkowski’s right-hand post.

This was the catalyst for further Latics pressure and they went ahead on the hour mark after good play by Jamal Lowe down the right hand side, he cut the ball back to Pilkington, who saw his effort deflected into his own net by Hutchinson.

Soon afterwards Pilkington forced an excellent full-length save from Bialkowski with an audacious 35-yard free-kick. From the resulting corner Balogun volleyed just wide of the target.

The Lions tried to respond and Mahlon Romeo’s cross from the right found Bradshaw but the striker headed wide.

Latics then had a great chance to increase their lead as Pilkington found Samy Morsy in the area but the captain’s shot was just over the Millwall crossbar.

As the game moved towards the final whistle Latics retreated into defence under pressure from the visitors. Millwall substitute Mason Bennett had a great chance to level but he fired wide from the edge of the area.

On the counter-attack Moore then had a chance to seal the points but dragged his left foot effort wide of goal.

Bennett missed another opportunity just before the final whistle as Latics held on for an important three points in their battle for survival.

Latics are now showing good form with 11 points from a possible 18 in the last six games.

They look much stronger with Kipre and Balogun in the centre of defence and the midfield is as combative as any in the division.

Nigerian international Balogun has brought a calmness to Latics’ defence which augurs well for the run-in but they are the joint lowest scorers in the division and they will need the strikers to start finding the net if they are to stay up.

About ianhaspinall

Communications specialist, Wigan Athletic fan & blogger, interested in music, arts & culture.
This entry was posted in Championship, Leon Balogun, Millwall, Shaun Henderson, Wigan Athletic and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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