Wigan Athletic secured an important first win of the season with a fine away performance at Portsmouth.
The club who have had little good news recently outplayed one of League One’s promotion favourites and probably should have won by more than the 2-1 scoreline.
Latics went ahead just before half-time when Lee Evans converted after good work by Viv Solomon-Otabor and Tom James increased their lead on 59 minutes with a super strike from a 30-yard free-kick which flew into the top corner of the Pompey net.
The visitors should have increased their advantage when Solomon-Otabor and Evans went close but they had a nervous final five minutes as the hosts pulled a goal back in the 89th minute through substitute Ellis Harrison.
The result lifts Latics into 18th place in the table while Portsmouth sit in 21st position after three games played.
Manager John Sheridan was without the injured former Portsmouth midfielder Gary Roberts but Gavin Massey returned to the bench after injury. Former Latic Michael Jacobs made his full debut for Portsmouth.
In blustery conditions both teams struggled to come to terms with the wind in the early stages.
Latics had a scare after seven minutes when a Pompey cross deceived keeper Jamie Jones but luckily for the visitors the ball hit the post and went away to safety.
Jones was again in trouble after 13 minutes when he completely misjudged a Jacobs cross from the left but fortunately Kal Naismith was on hand to head clear.
Evans then threatened for Latics when he curled an effort just over the angle of post and crossbar from the edge of the box.
The visitors were unlucky to lose full-back Tom Pearce with an injury after 21 minutes and they had to reshuffle the defence with Chris Merrie slotting in at left-back and Dan Gardner coming into midfield.
Pompey were getting into some good attacking positions but their final pass or cross was ineffective and it was the visitors who took the lead after 39 minutes through Evans.
Solomon-Otabor put in a dangerous cross and after Perry’s shot had been blocked, the Wales international Evans volleyed into the ground and the ball bounced over MacGillivray and into the Pompey net.
1-0 to the visitors at the interval and Latics continued to create the better chances in the second half.
Solomon-Otabor had a fine effort which went narrowly wide of the target after some great work by Merrie driving forward down the left.
Evans then fired over the crossbar from a good position after more good work by Merrie, this time on the right.
Latics consolidated their lead on 59 minutes with a James wonder strike from a 30-yard free-kick. The Hibernian loanee was given the opportunity to take the free-kick after consultation with Latics’ bench and he took the opportunity with both hands with a perfect hit which flew into the top corner of MacGillivray’s net.
Latics were now looking comfortable but they got a scare on 65 minutes when Jones picked up a back pass rather than kicking clear. Fortunately for Jones and Latics the Pompey close range free-kick was blocked by the defensive wall and then cleared.
Garner then nearly added to Latics’ lead when he stole the ball on the edge of the Pompey area but his effort was straight at MacGillivray.
Substitute Williams then fired narrowly wide for the hosts as the game opened up to chances at both ends.
Gavin Massey replaced Solomon-Otabor on 79 minutes as Latics looked to utilise the winger’s pace on the break.
With time running out for Kenny Jackett’s team they pulled a goal back on 89 minutes when John Marquis chested the ball down for Harrison to convert.
A nervous five minutes of added time for Latics to survive but they held on with few major scares and secured their first three points of the season.
This was a throughly deserved victory for John Sheridan’s newly assembled team and it should give them confidence going into next week’s home fixture against Doncaster Rovers.
There were some excellent performances at Fratton Park with James, Merrie, Naismith and Evans outstanding. The team played some good passing football with the young players who have come into the squad from the Under 23s doing exceptionally well in difficult circumstances.
Off the field matters are still very worrying but on the playing side the feeling is now much more upbeat.