Wigan Athletic secured a hard fought 4-3 victory against in-form Accrington Stanley at the DW Stadium.
Stanley’s John Coleman had been named League One manager of the month for November but his team were stunned by Latics in the first half as the League’s bottom club raced into a 3-0 lead at the interval.
Tom James brave diving header on 14 minutes had put Latics ahead before Dan Gardner’s superb volley had doubled their lead on 19 minutes and it looked as though it was game over on 32 minutes when Will Keane’s penalty made it 3-0.
But Stanley rallied in the second half and and reduced the deficit on 61 minutes when Joe Pritchard’s cross cum shot evaded everyone. Four minutes later and the visitors pulled another goal back with Michael Nottingham’s superb strike from 25-yards found the bottom corner.
The hosts were living dangerously now as the visitors pressed for the equaliser but on 83 minutes Latics increased their advantage when substitute Olly Crankshaw’s shot was deflected via Mark Hughes into the net.
There was still time for Stanley to pull another goal back on 86 minutes when Cameron Burgess converted following a goalmouth scramble.
But despite six minutes of added time Latics held out for a memorable victory and moved off the bottom of the League One table. Accrington drop to tenth place although they have several games in hand on those above them.
Latics were without Lee Evans, Kal Naismith and Thelo Aasgaard due to injury and they were replaced by Darnell Johnson, Will Keane and Chris Merrie in a 5-3-2 formation.
Accrington started brightly and forced three corners in the opening six minutes but Latics gradually grew into the game and started to threaten.
Tom Pearce got in behind the visitors defence and his penetrating cross found Kyle Joseph in the box but his shot was saved.
Moments later Joseph was involved again and this time it resulted in Latics taking the lead. The Scottish youth international’s strike from inside the box was only partially parried by Toby Savin and James’s brave diving header found the net despite the wing -back receiving a kick on the head from a defender.
Five minutes later Latics increased their advantage when an Accrington defender inadvertently flicked a high ball into his own penalty and Gardner expertly volleyed home from a tight angle.
Latics looked home and dry on 32 minutes when they went 3-0 up. The tenacious Chris Merrie battled his way into the box and Dion Charles brought him down.
Will Keane stepped up and comfortably converted the spot-kick firing high to the keeper’s left hand side.
Merrie then tested Savin with a strike from 25-yards which the keeper did well to push around the post.
Latics appeared to be in complete control with Merrie bossing the midfield, Keane showing good composure and linking up the forward play and Joseph battling brilliantly at the top of the pitch.
3-0 at half time but how would Stanley respond in the second half?
Coleman made two changes at the interval with both wing-backs replaced and Latics had to make a forced change with Adam Long replaced by Olly Crankshaw.
Joseph was proving a handful and Latics were closing down and getting tight for the early stages of the half.
But almost out of the blue the visitors struck when Pritchard’s cross cum shot evaded everyone including Jamie Jones.
Game on and Latics were further pegged back when four minutes later Nottingham’s superb strike from 25-yards found the bottom corner.
Latics were looking a little tired now and were not keeping possession like they had done in the first half.
Stanley were pressing for the equaliser but with seven minutes of normal time remaining Latics made it 4-2. Crankshaw’s deflected strike flew over Savin and into the top corner to seemingly relieve the pressure.
However, three minutes later Stanley pulled another goal back when Burgess converted following a goalmouth scramble and Latics were living dangerously again.
It was a nervous ending with six minutes of added time but Latics survived without any more real scares to record an important three points in their quest to avoid relegation.
Leam Richardson was rightly proud of his team’s excellent performance but great credit should also be given to the acting manager for working wonders with limited resources and during a long period of administration.