- Wigan Athletic maintained their push for automatic promotion with a 2-0 victory at bottom club Crewe Alexandra.
- Latics went ahead in the 43rd minute when Josh Magennis scored his first goal for the club with a near post header from Max Power’s free-kick.
- The visitors added to their lead in the 53rd minute when Curtis Tilt and Joe Bennett combined well and Bennett’s cross was headed home at the back post by Will Keane.
- The hosts enjoyed more possession in the second half but were unable to trouble goalkeeper Ben Amos and the visitors ran out comfortable winners.
- Latics are now four points behind leaders Rotherham with two games in hand and are three points ahead of third place MK Dons with two games in hand. Crewe remain bottom of the table and are nine points from safety.
Leam Richardson made three changes to the team which started against MK Dons on Saturday with captain Tendayi Darikwa, Joe Bennett and Josh Magennis replacing Tom Pearce, Gavin Massey and the suspended Callum Lang.
Latics adopted a 3-4-2-1 formation as they had done on Saturday but with Darikwa and Bennett as the wing-backs.
The visitors started very strongly and Magennis forced a corner in the first minute. Three minutes later the Northern Ireland international had a great chance to open the scoring when he was through on goal but the referees assistant flagged for offside. A minute later Darikwa’s fierce strike from the edge of the area was well pushed away by Crewe keeper Dave Richards.
The hosts responded and some sloppy defending allowed Callum Ainley a strike on goal which was superbly saved by Amos. Soon afterwards Rekeem Harper curled an effort just over Amos’ crossbar from 25-yards out.
On a bumpy surface both teams resorted to the long ball in an attempt to break the deadlock.
A Bennett free-kick from the left was headed over by Keane inside the box on the half hour mark as Latics started to assert their passing game.
Stephen Humphrys did brilliantly to evade several defenders close attention before crossing into the penalty area but his delivery didn’t quite reach Magennis. Another Bennett free-kick from the edge of the area was then well saved by Richards at his near post on 38 minutes.
Five minutes later and Latics were ahead when Magennis scored his first goal for the club since joining from Hull City in the January transfer window. Power chipped a delicate free-kick into the area and Magennis rose to head home at the near post.
Latics started the second half as strongly as they had done in the first and they doubled their lead on 53 minutes. Tilt and Bennett combined well down the left hand side and Bennett’s cross was headed into the net by Keane who rose highest at the back post.
The game then became quite scrappy for a period before Latics had another chance on 67 minutes when Humphrys cut the ball back to Darikwa but the Zimbabwean’s low drive was deflected narrowly wide of the target.
Bennett was replaced as the left wing-back by Tom Pearce on 68 minutes and Humphrys was replaced by Gwion Edwards on 77 minutes with Saturday’s game against Morecambe in mind.
As the clock ticked down Crewe were enjoying more possession but Latics’ keeper Amos wasn’t really troubled and the visitors sealed another important three points in their pursuit of automatic promotion.
It was another workmanlike and professional performance by Latics and it is to their great credit that despite injuries and suspensions they have been able to maintain their momentum during an intensive series of games.
Speaking to the media afterwards, Richardson said:
“[It was] very professional; we knew it was going to be a healthy challenge for us.
“With the challenges that Crewe are facing, we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game so we had to come and be professional around the pitch and do the simple things well tonight.
“It was a different game to Saturday and you have to be flexible, it was commendable that the lads took the information in and carried it out.
“We were a functioning team tonight; in my opinion, there are different ways to win a game, you can play different formations – people will debate formations – but within that it’s the philosophy and tonight it was important we got the performance from the group, and I thought to a man they were commendable.”
Josh Magennis got his first goal for the club, and while delighted for the frontman, Richardson was keen to respect the calibre of player and his all round game.
“It’s brilliant for Josh; I was asked the same questions about Charlie Wyke and Stephen Humphrys and these lads score goals.
“They have scored goals for years, Josh will continue to score goals for us, he leads the line, was excellent tonight and is fantastic around the place. He’s a great person and his performances will show that.
“The goal was a great ball in from Max, great movement and a great header and it puts us on our way.
“Again, the second goal was a fantastic ball from Joe [Bennett] and Keano [Will Keane] goes in those areas where Keano goes, and it becomes a good habit for him. The goal put us into that position then where we could control the game a lot more and defend in a lower press and break from there.”