- Wigan Athletic made hard work of a game they should have won at a canter.
- Latics completely dominated the first half against League One strugglers Gillingham and were 2-0 up inside 21 minutes with goals from Will Keane and Stephen Humphrys.
- Latics failed to ram home their advantage with Tom Naylor hitting the bar, and Keane striking a post and having another effort headed off the line by Max Ehmer.
- They eased off in the second half and Ben Reeves pulled one back for the Gills and they levelled in the 69th minute through Stuart O’Keefe.
- But the hosts rescued a poor second half display when Jason Kerr’s header was turned home by Keane from close range to secure a 3-2 win and take them to the top of the table.
- Latics are top of League One, level on points with second place Sunderland but with four games in hand. Gillingham drop to bottom of the table and are now 10 points from safety.
Latics made three changes to the starting line-up from the victory at Morecambe on Tuesday with Gwion Edwards, Humphys and debutant Graeme Shinnie coming in.
Latics started confidently from the kick off and Edwards put Humphrys in the clear on the left but the striker couldn’t get a shot away inside the area.
The hosts continued to press forward and when Tom Naylor found Edwards 25-yards out the winger’s powerful effort was well parried away by Pontus Dahlberg.
Latics pressure told in the ninth minute when Keane headed home. Edwards did well to beat his marker before crossing for Keane to head into the bottom right corner.
Three minutes later the hosts almost doubled their lead through Tom Naylor.
James McClean’s inviting corner from the right was met by the midfielder and his header hit the crossbar and went behind for a goal-kick.
Latics doubled their lead in the 22nd minute with Humphrys second goal in two games.
Shinnie intercepted a poor pass and found Humphrys who played a one-two with Edwards before driving into the penalty area and slotting superbly across the keeper and into the bottom corner.
Latics looked in complete control with the Gills offering very little in the first half.
The hosts almost added a third when Power’s cross from the right was defended but only as far as Keane who steadied himself before took striking a deflected effort onto the right post.
Keane had another opportunity soon afterwards when Ryan Jackson’s loose pass was intercepted by McClean who played the ball back to Keane at close range but his effort was denied by an exceptional headed goal-line clearance from Ehmer.
Latics should’ve been out of sight by half time but the second half proved to be a much different affair.
The Gills made a double substitution with Kelman and Reeves replacing Carayol and Danny Lloyd at the break, and they started the second half strongly.
Gillingham got on the scoresheet in the 53rd minute with their first strike on target.
Ehmer’s long ball from defence was headed on by Oliver into the path of Reeves who took a touch before driving his low effort into the bottom right corner from the edge of the area.
The visitors continued to press forward but the hosts threatened through Power when his powerful drive was well saved by Dahlberg.
Dahlberg was then called into action with two excellent saves in quick succession.
First Edwards’ strike was denied from the edge of the area before Dahlberg somehow pushed away Jack Whatmough’s header away from close range after he met McClean’s corner at the far post.
The home crowd were stunned in the 69th minute as the Gills equalised through O’Keefe, a cross fell to him in the area and he produced an accomplished finish into the bottom corner.
Latics tried to restore their lead when Naylor’s low header from Power’s free-kick was well saved by Dahlberg.
Much to the home side’s relief they restored their lead in the 78th minute when Keane added his 14th goal of the season.
McClean’s corner from the right was headed back across goal by substitute Jason Kerr and Keane was able to tap home from close range.
The visitors tried to respond and when Jackson’s cross from the right was headed on by substitute John Akinde to find O’Keefe, but his effort cleared the crossbar.
Gillingham continued to battle for an equaliser, but Latics did just enough to secure the three points, move to the top of the table and extend their unbeaten run to 17 games.
Manager Leam Richardson praised his players after the game.
“Credit must go to the players,” he said.
“They showed great character to go and win the game. They’ve worked really hard this week taking the information in – so going Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday and producing three wins is commendable.
“I thought on the balance of play, we deserved to win and I thought we were excellent in the first half. If I’m being slightly critical, we should have probably scored more goals.
“Gillingham have scored 60% of their goals in the first half hour so it was important that we started fast and I thought we did that. In the second half, fair credit to Gillingham.
“They kept us honest all the way, but we always believe we have the quality on the pitch to score goals. We’ve worked hard to find that bit of quality – and a bit of luck – to land on the right side of the result.”