- Wigan Athletic closed the gap on League One leaders Rotherham with an emphatic 4-1 victory against strugglers Morecambe at the DW Stadium.
- Latics went ahead in the 19th minute when Tendayi Darikwa’s cross was superbly headed into the net by Josh Magennis.
- The hosts added a second just before half-time when Jason Kerr poked the ball home from close range after James McClean’s corner was flicked on by Tom Naylor.
- Latics started the second-half sluggishly and Morecambe pulled a goal back from the penalty spot when Dylan Connolly converted after Jack Whatmough was adjudged to have handled Cole Stockton’s shot inside the area.
- The hosts sealed the three points with goals in the 67th and 68th minutes. Will Keane grabbed his 20th goal of the season, heading home from Naylor’s header before Stephen Humphrys volleyed past Dundee United loanee keeper Trevor Carson from inside the area.
- Latics are now one point behind leaders Rotherham with two games in hand and are three points ahead of third place MK Dons with two games in hand. Morecambe are in 22nd place and are three points from safety.
Leam Richardson made one change from Tuesday’s 2-0 victory at Crewe Alexandra with McClean returning from his suspension to replace Joe Bennett.
The manager adopted a 3-4-1-2 formation with Magennis and Humphrys up top with Keane just behind them.
Latics started in confident mood and were quickly creating chances.
Naylor crossed for Keane at the far post but the Republic of Ireland international’s header cleared the crossbar from a good position.
The impressive Naylor then found McClean whose low cross just evaded Humphrys at the back post.
McClean then delivered a superb free-kick for Kerr but goalkeeper Carson saved the centre-back’s headed effort.
Latics were deservedly ahead in the 19th minute when Magennis’ scored his second goal for the club after netting his first in midweek against Crewe.
Darikwa’s right wing cross was superbly glanced into the corner of the net from the edge of the six-yard box by the former Hull City striker.
Latics had a lucky escape when Cooney’s right-sided cross was sliced goalwards by Whatmough but fortunately it just went out for a corner.
Morecambe threatened again soon afterwards and Aaron Wildig’s effort from inside the box hit Ben Amos and went behind for another corner.
The prolific Stockton then hit a volley from 25-yards out but his effort took a deflection and went just over the crossbar.
Latics responded and Humphrys created an opportunity for himself and then hit a powerful strike, but Carson did well to get down low and tip the ball behind for a corner.
Just before half-time Latics doubled their lead through Kerr. McClean’s corner was headed across goal by Naylor and the former St. Johnstone defender poked the ball home at the far post for his first league goal for Latics.
The hosts were slow out of the blocks at the beginning of the second-half and the visitors were awarded a penalty in the 47th minute after Stockton’s shot from inside the penalty area was adjudged to have struck the hand of Whatmough.
Connolly converted the spot kick to give the Shrimps hopes of a comeback.
But Latics wanted to restore their advantage and Humphrys did well to create space before curling an effort wide of the far post.
Humphrys was then unlucky to see his powerful goal bound strike from the edge of the area pushed away by Carson.
Curtis Tilt had an opportunity when he acrobatically tried his luck from the edge of the area but his volley was well held by Carson.
Latics’ pressure told in the 67th minute when Darikwa’s cross was headed back across goal by Naylor and Keane was able to head home from very close range.
Just a minute later Humphrys sealed the three points for the hosts with a powerful volley into the bottom corner.
Latics should have added more to their goal tally and they had a great chance to make it five when Keane was through on goal following a one-two with Humphrys but after rounding the goalkeeper, he unfortunately slipped and the chance went begging.
Ultimately they ran out comfortable winners and with news that leaders Rotherham had lost at home to Shrewsbury it was a particularly pleasing day for everyone at the club.
Richardson will be ensuring that the players do not be get ahead of themselves with regard to promotion, but with nine games remaining and with games in hand they are now in a very strong position to go on to win the league one title.
Richardson speaking to the media afterwards said,
“It was a pleasing and professional performance,”
“We spoke at the start of the week about going into another three-game week on the back of nine consecutive weeks of playing Saturday to Tuesday. Starting with MK Dons, going into a difficult game at Crewe on Tuesday night, to then meeting Morecambe here, who are facing their own challenges.
“It was never going to be easy and we had to work for the openings. We hoped that our quality would come through and I’m really pleased with the lads’ appetite and professionalism today.
“I thought we started the game excellently well and possibly then came off what we were doing to be so good, and started to make different decisions around the pitch.
“We spoke at half-time about the professionalism because things can change on a decision as we’ve seen with the penalty. I was pleased with how the lads took over the game after that.
“We’ve got a lot of senior lads on the pitch to manage situations and the pleasing thing was after Morecambe’s goal is that we controlled the game and got another couple of goals.”
Following this afternoon’s 4-1 victory over Morecambe, Latics will have a two-week window to rest and regroup ahead of the visit of Bolton Wanderers on Saturday 2 April.
Richardson said the break is a well-earned one after the shift that has been put in by both the players and the supporters over the last nine weeks.
“It’s been a really good shift from the players but not only the players and the staff, but also the fans,” he said.
“To travel nine consecutive weeks both home and away is some effort and it will be a well-earned break for ourselves and the fans, but it will also give us a chance to get some real quality work in.”