- League One leaders Wigan Athletic showed great character to draw 2-2 against Ipswich Town at Portman Road and moved to within one point of automatic promotion.
- Latics went in front when Joe Bennett’s in-swinging corner was superbly headed home by Will Keane just before half-time.
- Ipswich drew level on 61 minutes when Latics failed to clear a cross into the box and Conor Chaplin finished into the bottom right corner.
- Former Latics and current Ipswich captain Samy Morsy then looked to have won it for the Tractor Boys when he volleyed home from close range on 73 minutes, but Latics were not to be beaten and Keane equalised on 86 minutes from close range.
- Latics are now five points clear of second place Rotherham who lost at Burton and third place MK Dons who lost at Oxford. Ipswich are eleventh place in the table.
Leam Richardson made three changes to the starting line-up from Saturday’s defeat to Cambridge with Jason Kerr, Joe Bennett and Stephen Humphrys replacing Graeme Shinnie, Gwion Edwards and Josh Magennis.
Ipswich had former Latics players Samy Morsy and Christian Walton in their starting XI.
Richardson set his team up in a 3-4-2-1 formation after Saturday’s experiment with a back four had proved disappointing.
Latics started brightly and Tendayi Darikwa forced an early save from Walton.
Ipswich gradually grew into the game and got their passing game going. On 12 minutes the hosts Matt Penny blazed wide of the left hand post from a good position.
Morsy then tried his luck from outside the box on 20 minutes and Ben Amos spilled the shot but fortunately for the Latics keeper the mistake came to nothing.
On 32 minutes Amos then did well to save from Chaplin at close range but the referee’s assistant had signalled offside anyway.
The hosts were in the ascendancy now and Latics had to defend a series of corners as the match moved towards half-time.
Against the run of play Latics went ahead in first half stoppage time. Bennett’s excellent in-swinging corner from the the right was met by Keane at the near post and the Latics top scorer angled his header into the bottom left corner.
1-0 to Latics at the break, but Ipswich started the second half in determined mood and the visitors struggled to touch the ball as the hosts maintained possession.
Morsy fired over the crossbar from the centre of the box on 52 minutes as Ipswich continued to threaten.
Callum Lang was then unfortunate to be penalised for a foul when tracking back to win the ball and from the resulting free-kick the Tractor Boys were level on 61 minutes.
Latics failed to clear the free-kick and when the ball ricocheted to Chaplin inside the box he finished into the bottom right corner.
The visitors were under the cosh now and having to defend resolutely, but they did have a rare chance on 71 minutes when a poor back pass set up Bennett inside the area and Walton did well to save at close range.
The hosts went in front on 73 minutes when Morsy was allowed to volley home from close range. It was a frustrating moment for all Latics supporters as the former captain took great pleasure in scoring against his former club.
Richardson immediately introduced Jordan Cousins for Humphrys in an attempt to strengthen the midfield. Then on 82 minutes he made a positive double substitution with Tom Pearce and Gwion Edwards replacing Kerr and Watts as they tried to rescue the game.
Power went close from a 30-yard free-kick and Walton saved well from Keane as the visitors pressed forward.
The equaliser deservedly came on 86 minutes when Power did well to get down the right hand side and cross for Keane to score yet another important goal from inside the six-yard box. The former Ipswich striker scoring his 23rd league goal of the season for Latics.
For all Ipswich’s possession Latics had defended resolutely and had created chances on the break. Their character and determination had got them another vital point.
With Rotherham and MK Dons both losing, one point against Plymouth on Saturday should be enough for promotion with Latics’ superior goal difference, and three points would make it mathematically certain.
Afterwards Richardson praised his side’s character and work rate. He was full of plaudits for his players desire to take something back to Wigan with them.
“I thought the work ethic was fantastic,” Richardson explained. “It was an intense game and our distances were a little bit off in periods but I thought we still looked a threat going forward.
“The character, work rate [was there] and I thought we worked hard enough to get that result tonight.
“We set up to come and win; the fans in the top corner were fantastic and the energy that comes from them onto the pitch is great.
“I thought every player that stepped on the pitch was excellent.”
And Richardson continued that it wasn’t lost on the players and staff how much of an effort the 402 travelling supporters had made to get to Portman Road tonight.
“Our lads are quite senior and they don’t take anything for granted,” he added. “Tendayi [Darikwa] and Max [Power] are obviously the captain and vice captain and they mention it all the time because it’s obviously not cheap, it’s a rearranged fixture on a Tuesday night and the lads are very aware of that and hopefully we represent the shirt with that work ethic and energy we put on the pitch.
“We probably weren’t as fluent as we have been this year in possession but I thought we worked as hard as anybody out of possession and now and again you can try and control games out of possession because you have to respect the team in front of you. I thought in transition and on the counter we always looked a threat.”
Richardson had made a double change at 2-1 down as Gwion Edwards and Tom Pearce replaced Jason Kerr and Kell Watts.
Richardson explained his thinking,
“Let’s have a go!,” he said. “Every point is precious at this time of year and we wanted to try and be a bit more functional in the wide areas, and we wanted to put them on the back foot a little bit – I felt with the changes we did that.
“We have got two lads with Joe Bennett and Tendayi Darikwa on the outside who are comfortable stepping in, and I felt the two lads that came off worked excellently hard.”
Will Keane headed to the top of the Sky Bet League One scoring charts with his double, his 22nd and 23rd league goals of the campaign.
On his frontman, Richardson finished:
“If Keano keeps going in them areas, he will keep getting them goals and them chances – people will get confident enough to put it in them areas because they know you will be there. When you have the quality and the calmness that Keano has got, he will continue to score important goals for us between now and the end of the season.”