- Wigan Athletic got back to winning ways with a convincing 2-0 victory against League One strugglers Fleetwood Town at the DW Stadium.
- After a period of sustained pressure Latics went in front from the penalty spot on 37 minutes when Will Keane converted after Callum Johnson handled Tendayi Darikwa’s shot in the area.
- The hosts doubled their lead five minutes later when James McClean’s strike from the edge of the area arrowed into the bottom corner.
- Latics had opportunities to add to their advantage in the second half but despite Callum Lang hitting a post the score remained at 2-0.
- The game ended in an unsavoury fashion when McClean and former Latic Joe Garner were dismissed for fighting in stoppage time.
- Latics strengthened their position for automatic promotion and are three points ahead of third place MK Dons with two games in hand and seven points behind leaders Rotherham with two games in hand. Fleetwood are in 19th place in the table and are two points above the relegation zone.
Leam Richardson made three changes to the starting eleven following Saturday’s defeat to Sunderland with Kell Watts, Graeme Shinnie and Stephen Humphrys replacing Curtis Tilt, Gwion Edwards and Josh Magennis.
Prior to kick off there was a moment of applause to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
The visitors started strongly and Shayden Morris was played through by Carl Johnston but his cross shot was well pushed away by Ben Amos.
Morris was posing a threat down the right hand side and he tried to catch Amos by surprise with an audacious attempt from just inside Latics’ half, but the ball sailed over the crossbar.
After initial pressure from Fleetwood Latics started to assert themselves and McClean’s corner was headed onto the back post by Keane before the ball came out to Callum Lang. Lang’s cross then found Watts from the right but his low effort was collected by Alex Cairns.
Carl Johnston then tried his luck for the visitors from 25-yards out and Amos had to parry the ball away and at the other end, Darikwa set up McClean but his low effort from just inside the area was blocked by Tom Clarke.
Latics pressure told in the 37th minute when they were awarded a penalty after Darikwa’s shot inside the area struck the hand of Johnson. Keane confidently converted the spot-kick for his 16th league goal of the season.
Five minutes later Latics doubled their lead through McClean. Lang did well to set the ball to the Irishman on the edge of the area, who took a touch before arrowing his strike into the bottom corner.
Latics started the second half assertively and almost added to their lead when Max Power worked a short corner to McClean but he dragged his effort wide from just inside the penalty area.
The hosts were in control now dominating possession and passing the ball confidently.
They went close in the 72nd minute after some outstanding build-up play. Keane showed great skill by lifting the ball over Callum Camps and release Darikwa into space, and the captain’s cross with the outside of his foot found Lang at the far post but his effort from a tight angle crashed against the outside of the post.
The game ended in an unsavoury fashion in added time when Garner and McClean squared up to each other and then started fighting on the ground and the fight had to be broken up by both sets of players before both Garner and McClean were red carded. It was an unnecessary incident and both players will no doubt regret their behaviour.
Overall Latics had 21 shots in the game and they will be disappointed that they had not won by more than two goals, but after Saturday’s hiccup they had quickly got back to winning ways and normal service had been resumed in their quest for promotion.
They will now look to keep the pressure on at the top of the table on Saturday when AFC Wimbledon are the visitors at the DW Stadium and leaders Rotherham face third place MK Dons at the New York Stadium.
Commenting afterwards Richardson said,
“[We were] very professional and very resilient, especially in the second half.
“I thought we reacted terrifically well from the weekend coming into tonight. In the first-half, Fleetwood had 11 men behind the ball, and it was always going to be a healthy challenge for us to work for that quality of chance.
“When [the chance] came through Tendayi [Darikwa] running off the wide player and winning the penalty, Will Keane tucked it away excellently.
“We know we have to run hard; we are respectful of the challenges that different teams pose. They’ve come to sit behind the ball and counter attack so we had to be mindful of that and make sure we filled the lanes to not get caught up in that.
“I thought the lads were very patient, took information on well and reacted well from the weekend, which we’ve had a good habit of doing this season.
“We looked a threat on the breakaway in the second-half but probably needed a bit more quality – we’ve got to score again really.
“They threw caution to the wind and went four on top and had nothing to lose, with the full backs being high and wide. We had to be professional and not give any room or chances up and Ben [Amos] didn’t have to work too much.
“The clean sheet pleased me through Ben, Jack [Whatmough] and Kell [Watts], up to Stephen [Humphrys] and Keane [Will Keane] working tirelessly in the first half and Josh [Magennis] coming on and continuing that led to a very professional performance.”