- Wigan Athletic moved to the top of the League One table with an emphatic 3-0 victory against mid-table Accrington Stanley at the DW Stadium.
- Joe Bennett opened the scoring in the 37th minute with a superb free-kick from 25-yards and they doubled the lead in the 42nd minute when Josh Magennis headed home Max Power’s pinpoint delivery.
- Will Keane added a third in the 57th minute from close range after keeper Toby Savin spilled a Power free-kick and Latics should have added to their tally with several good chances wasted.
- Latics are top of the table, one point ahead of second place MK Dons with two games in hand and three points ahead of third place Rotherham. Accrington are in 14th place.
Leam Richardson made two changes from the 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. Bennett and Kell Watts came into the starting XI for the injured James McClean and Curtis Tilt while Jordan Cousins returned to the bench after a long injury.
Latics made a hesitant start to the game as Accrington threatened early on.
First Mitch Clark’s long throw fell to Matt Butcher but his volleyed effort was comfortably saved by goalkeeper Ben Amos.
Then the visitors had a big opportunity to open the scoring when Yeboah Amankwah jinked his way into the penalty area past several of Latics’ defenders but he poked his low shot just wide of the post.
Latics gradually grew into the game and came close to breaking the deadlock when Tendayi Darikwa’s excellent delivery seemed perfect for Bennett to score, but the defender’s header missed the target from close range.
The hosts did make the breakthrough in the 37th minute through Bennett’s superb free-kick.
The former Cardiff City left-back stepped up from 25-yards to produce a spectacular strike into the top right corner. It was an especially memorable strike for his first goal for the club.
Latics doubled their lead five minutes later when Magennis’ header at the near post found the bottom corner of the net.
Power delivered an inviting cross from the right-hand side and the Northern Ireland international delivered a perfect header into the bottom corner.
Accrington nearly reduced the deficit just before half-time when Michael Nottingham’s free-kick from distance took a deflection but it just cleared the crossbar with Amos backpedaling.
Latics started the second half strongly but the visitors had the first chance when Sean McConville unleashed a powerful strike from distance and Amos did well to push the shot away for a corner.
Power continued to pose a threat from free-kicks and his latest effort was met by Jack Whatmough but the central defender could only guide his header wide of the target.
Latics were rewarded with a third goal by Keane from another Power free-kick in the 57th minute.
The energetic midfielder’s right-sided free-kick was spilled by goalkeeper Savin, and Keane was inside the six-yard box to tap the ball home for his 21st goal of the season.
Latics were in dominant form now and they produced a series of great opportunities to increase their lead.
First Keane pulled the ball back for Darikwa to hit first time from inside the box but Savin got down low to superbly tip the ball around the post.
Then Bennett almost grabbed his second when Naylor’s through ball was flicked on by Magennis but his effort went just wide via a deflection.
Lang then went close when he lifted the ball over the onrushing Savin from Darikwa’s through ball but his effort unluckily crashed against crossbar and away to safety.
Lang had another opportunity soon afterwards when Whatmough stepped out of the defence and played Lang through on goal but he drove his low effort into the side netting.
Accrington had a few late attempts from distance but Latics really should have added further goals to their tally. Six or seven goals would not have been an unreasonable return based on the number of good chances they had.
Latics have been on an incredible run and with seven game’s remaining they moved to the top of the table and are in pole position for automatic promotion.
They must not take their foot off the pedal with both MK Dons and Rotherham in close pursuit. But if they maintain their excellent momentum, with away games coming up at Lincoln on Saturday and Burton on Tuesday, then promotion is within their grasp.
Speaking to the media afterwards Richardson was quick to praise his squad for securing the three points over a resolute Accrington side.
“I was very pleased with the result and the players take full credit for that,” he said.
“I thought they worked extremely hard, but credit to Accrington. They came wanting to win and I thought they were excellent in the first 15-20 minutes.
“The first goal helped us grow back into the game and I felt it calmed everybody down. We then strung a few phases together, and the second goal before half-time probably put the game in the balance where we were able to control large parts.
“You’ve got to make sure you stand up the task of the opposition and once the ball calmed down and we controlled parts of the game, I felt we were value for the result in the end.
“I’ve also got to give credit to the fans, as they gave us energy and the energy came into the pitch. When you’ve got both the fans and players pulling in the same direction, you’ve got a force.
“We just keep going. Our focus now is a tough game away at Lincoln. If we play with the same tempo and endeavour and keep our habits consistent, hopefully we’ll fall the right side of the result.”
Latics’ manager was also able to provide an update post-game on James McClean and Curtis Tilt following their injuries on Saturday against Bolton Wanderers.
“It’s disappointing for both,” he said.
“With James, it’s probably better news than we thought. It was first reported that it was going to be 9-12 months, but it’s now going to be a number of weeks – which is more positive.
“He’ll work tirelessly hard to try and make some portion of the season. Tilty is the opposite, however, as he’s had an operation today, which will see him out for the season, but he’ll work tirelessly hard to get back next season.”