- Wigan Athletic extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 15 games with a hard fought victory at League One strugglers Doncaster Rovers.
- Max Power flicked home James McClean’s corner in the 11th minute and Latics created several chances to extend their lead in the opening 20 minutes.
- The hosts battled back into the game at the end of the first half, but Latics increased their advantage when Will Keane headed home from Tom Pearce’s excellent cross in the 54th minute.
- Substitute Omar Bogle scored with his first touch in the 60th minute but Latics comfortably held on for a valuable three points in the promotion race with rivals Rotherham losing at Fleetwood and Sunderland drawing at Accrington.
- Latics are now in fourth place on 48 points but with five games in hand on leaders Wycombe who have 52 points. Doncaster remain bottom of the table and are nine points from safety.
Latics made three changes from the side that overcame Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup with Ben Amos, Gavin Massey and James McClean replacing Jamie Jones, Jason Kerr and Gwion Edwards in the starting line up.
Rovers had former Latics players Joe Dodoo and Bogle in their squad.
Latics were quickly out of the blocks and set about creating several good goalscoring opportunities.
First Tendayi Darikwa’s searching low cross just evaded Callum Lang who was ready to tap home from close range.
Massey floated an inviting cross from the right for Keane, but the Latics striker failed to convert with his header.
Massey then had a good opportunity down the right hand side but his final shot was wayward after breaking into the box.
Tom Pearce then had a great chance when he cut inside the box after good work by McClean but the full back drove his left footed strike narrowly wide of the far post.
Latics deservedly took the lead in the 11th minute when McClean’s corner from the right found Power whose instinctive glancing header at the near post evaded Rovers keeper Louis Jones.
The visitors continued to press forward and they nearly increased their lead in the 18th minute when Lang clipped a delicate ball to Keane at the back post but his header just cleared the crossbar.
Latics could and should have been three or four goals ahead in the first 20 minutes and they also had a goal disallowed soon afterwards when Lang was adjudged to be offside from McClean’s through ball.
Gradually Rovers started to enjoy more possession as Latics took their foot off the gas. The hosts had their first attempt on goal on the half-hour mark when Aidan Barlow lined up a powerful shot from the edge of the area, but his effort was well saved by Amos.
Former Latic Dodoo then pulled the ball back to Tommy Rowe from the right but his low effort was met by a superb block from Latics captain Darikwa.
Doncaster then had another opportunity when a free-kick was headed back to Matt Smith by Rowe on the edge of the area but his snapshot didn’t trouble Amos.
Manager Leam Richardson would have had stern words with charges at half time as Latics should have had the game sewn up in the first 20 minutes but Rovers had been allowed back into the game as Latics eased off.
The visitors started the second half strongly and had an early chance when McClean found Keane with a low cross from the left, but he was unable to test the Rovers keeper.
Keane did manage to double the visitors’ advantage in the 54th minute. McClean set the ball back for Pearce to deliver a superb cross from the left and Keane’s downward header flew past Jones in the Rovers net.
It looked as though Latics would now take complete control but on the hour mark Darikwa conceded a silly foul on the left hand side and from Ethan Galbraith’s free-kick the substitute Bogle scored with his first touch.
The hosts’ spirits were now raised but it was Latics who went closest when Keane tried his luck from the edge of the area but his shot was tipped behind for a corner.
Latics continued to look the more dangerous and McClean’s strike from the left was deflected just past the post.
Power then tried his luck from the edge of the box but his deflected effort rolled narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
The hosts battled bravely and pushed for a late equaliser, but Latics defended resolutely and held out comfortably for an important three points in their quest for promotion.
Latics are now in a strong position in the League One table and they will be hoping to capitalise on their five games in hand on the leaders Wycombe.
Afterwards Richardson praised the travelling 1800 supporters for their role in the victory.
“The last ten minutes our fans got us over the line, they kept all the lads focused and it doesn’t go underestimated.
“They relax me on the side when they are supporting the team that hard and you can see the lads are focused, and the last ten minutes more or less came to nothing, and they played a big part in that.”
Reflecting on the game itself, Richardson added:
“You have to respect Doncaster as well; they are in a certain place at the minute where they are fighting for their lives and you could see that with their performance. I thought they kept us honest all afternoon and pushed us right to the end.
“One of the big things before the game – and certainly at half-time – was to say not to disrespect a point or three points, because they are just as valuable as any other, no matter what team you play against and which stadium you play in – at the end of the season they still accumulate to the same amount of points so we have to be respectful to the opposition and to ourselves.
“I thought we started both halves really well but with Doncaster’s style of play they kept us honest and kept us on our back foot.
“We probably have to do better in possession and the lads know that, but we found a way to win and that’s the most important with the time of the year, the condition of the pitches and the squad as it is.”