- Wigan Athletic returned to the top of the League One table after a hard fought 2-0 victory against Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium.
- Latics dominated possession but in difficult conditions they were unable to break the deadlock until Max Power headed home from James McClean’s floated cross in the 63rd minute.
- The Gills direct style of play always posed a threat but the visitors sealed the three points when Will Keane diverted captain Tendayi Darikwa’s low cross into the net on 82 minutes.
- Latics move to the top above Sunderland, who lost at Portsmouth, on goal difference. Gillingham are in 18th place.
Leam Richardson named an unchanged team following Tuesday night’s defeat to Sheffield Wednesday for the visit to Kent.
In heavy rain and high winds both teams initially struggled with the conditions. The Gills direct style of play and physical presence was more suited to the conditions but Latics gradually took control and dominated possession.
Callum Lang was brought down on the edge of the box on 18 minutes and his free-kick was well saved by Jamie Cumming.
At the other end a deep cross from a free-kick nearly deceived Ben Amos but the keeper did well to tip over. Striker John Akinde then forced another save from Amos as the hosts threatened.
Latics produced a flowing move just before half time with Power and Keane combining to set up Lang who fired narrowly wide of the post.
A first half of few chances with Latics having the lion’s share of possession but unable to make their dominance count in the final third.
The Gills started strongly in the second half with the wind behind them. The aerial threat was the Gills main weapon and Akinde’s header from David Tutonda’s cross forced a good save from Amos.
But Latics soon started to look more menacing going forward. Lang’s volley from the edge of the box fizzed past the post and from Power’s corner Jack Whatmough’s header was diverted for another corner.
The breakthrough came in the 63rd minute when McClean turned the full back floating a cross to the back post and Power guided his header home from a tight angle.
Keane then went close twice as Latics looked to increase their advantage. First his left footed strike from the edge of the six-yard box was well saved by Chelsea loanee Cumming and then when his header was just over from Tom Naylor’s cross.
Gavin Massey replaced McClean on 77 minutes and the winger was instrumental in creating Latics’ second goal on 82 minutes. Massey held off his marker before threading a pass to Darikwa and the captain’s cross was well finished by Keane from close range.
The visitors saw out the remaining minutes with relative ease, although Gerald Sitole nearly caught out Amos who was off his line, but the keeper recovered to save well at the last moment.
Latics move back to the top of the table and have recovered well after the midweek setback against Sheffield Wednesday. Richardson confidently picked an unchanged team following the defeat and his judgement was proved correct as Latics’ players deservedly took the three points against difficult opposition.
It was the first time that Latics had won at Gillingham since 2004 and the performance and result augur well for the rest of the season.
In his after match interview Richardson said he was delighted for the players and had praise for the fans who travelled.
“I am delighted for the players,” he said.
“I thought they came and gave a good account of themselves. We spoke before the game that against Gillingham, you have to do the finer details really well with their direct style of play.
“Coming here on the back of Tuesday, it was important that we came and gave a good account of ourselves.
“We did the finer details well, and in the final third, we were productive – certainly in the second half.
“To come here is always a tough task. We know how Steve Evans’ teams want to play and represent themselves. It’s important that we stood up to the task, and to a man, I thought we did that.”
Over 400 travelling supporters made the long trip to Gillingham and braved the testing weather conditions to rally Latics to victory. Richardson expressed that he was ‘made up’ that his side were able to give them something to chant about.
“I’m delighted that we have given them something to sing about,” he said.
“I won’t single him out, but one of the lads mentioned it before the game. There are 430 mad Latics fans coming down to support them in the rain. The conditions were tough today – not just for the players, but for the fans supporting the team.
“It was important that we gave them that emphasis and hard work, and certainly represent them first and foremost, and then get the result so I’m made up today.”