Wigan made the long trip to the “Garden of England” to play early pace setters Gillingham F.C.
Wigan manager Gary Caldwell made one change from the side which was superb in defeating Scunthorpe in midweek, handing Kevin McNaughton his debut with John Joe Kenny dropping to the bench. On the bench there were welcome returns for Pearce and McKay with Coulthirst and Flores dropping off the bench.
Gillingham started brightly as a side benefitting from an unbeaten start and within two minutes Dack showed great confidence in shooting from outside the area with O’Donnell saving well at the foot of the post.
Gillingham continued to have the better of the early chances with further long range shots from Oshilaja and Dickenson but neither troubled O’Donnell in the Wigan goal. The game continued to be even in terms of possession but very much a midfield battle with very few chances, Wigan’s first chance on the twenty seventh minute was a header to Davies following a free kick but he was unable to keep the header down and the ball sailed over the bar.
Wigan did eventually trouble Nelson in the home goal on the half hour mark when Grigg tried his luck from outside the box but his shot was saved by the Gillingham keeper.
Shortly afterwards Gillingham went ahead when Dack played a one two in midfield, the defending from Wigan being less than excellent, taking the return pass on the edge of the area and his powerful shot left O’Donnell with no chance.
Wigan was stung by this set back and immediately went up the other end with Craig Davies shooting from distance, forcing Nelson into a smart save. Shortly afterwards Wigan were forced into an early substitution with debutant McNaughton replaced by Everton loanees Kenny in the right wing back position.
Gillingham continued to shoot on sight with Houghton the next to test O’Donnell who saved well, this was it for chances in the first half a Gillingham comfortably saw the half out. Wigan leaving the pitch knowing that they would have to up their tempo in the second half, if they were to get anything out of this match?
The second half started with a further change to the Wigan line up with the combative Junior replaced by another loanees Murray in an effort to provide a supply line to the forward two. First chance to the second half however fell to Gillingham when continuing their predilection for shooting from outside the box; Wright’s shot forced O’Donnell into another save.
Wigan’s first chance of the second half came as a result of a corner which found Grigg in the area but his shot was saved down by the post. Gillingham went straight back up the other end and a Norris shot came back off the post with O’Donnell well beaten.
The game continued to be a midfield battle with Wigan competing but lacking a creative spark and looking vulnerable on the counter attacks perpetrated by the home side. As the game drew into its closing stages Wigan threw forward McKay on for wing back James in an effort to claw something from the game.
Any hope for a revival were dashed however when Dack was fouled by Daniels in the penalty area, with Mr Kettle wasting no time in pointing to the spot, Daniels receiving a yellow card for his efforts. Dack stepped up to wrong foot O’Donnell blasting the ball down the centre of the goal.
Wigan’s day went from bad to worse as they were reduced to ten men as Daniels limped off injured and with no available substitutions left, Wigan had to play out the game with a disadvantage.
The full time whistle saw Gillingham go to the top of the table and sent the much vaunted Wigan side home with their tails very much between their legs with only three attempts on target in ninety minutes, manager Gary Caldwell was left to ponder on what was needed to turn midfield acumen into clean sheets and goals.
Line up (3-5-2)
O’Donnell, McNaughton, McCann, Morgan (c), Daniels, James, Perkins, Junior, Jacobs, Davies, Grigg.
Kenny for McNaughton, Murray for Junior. McKay for James
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