Wigan secured the three points at a wild and windswept DW stadium yesterday in a scrappy game and once again Owen Coyle had reason to be grateful for the performance of mercurial loanee Nick Powell in maintaining Wigan’s unbeaten home record.
Owen Coyle opted to make two changes from the side which drew with QPR in midweek, recalling Fortune and Watson to the starting line up in place of Holt and McArthur having to be content with places on the bench.
Wigan started the game the more positive of the two sides, with the silk of Watson’s passing couple with the steel of McCann’s tackling ensuring a dominance of centre midfield which provided the base for the more attacking skills of McManaman, Gomez, Powell and Fortune to shine.
Indeed Wigan could have been ahead within three minutes, good work by Gomez and Powell found Fortune unmarked in the penalty area but the striker could only blaze over the bar.
Wigan continued to exert pressure and Huddersfield roared on by an enthusiastic away following were left to try and catch Wigan on the break but the Wigan back four superbly marshalled by Barnett and Shotton allowed them very little space in which to perform.
The next player to test Smithies in the Huddersfield goal was Powell, his shot going narrowly over the bar and this was quickly followed by McCann who pushed forward from midfield and unleashed a powerful shot which the keeper did well to push over the bar for a corner.
Wigan weren’t to be denied however and from the resultant corner from Ben Watson, Barnett rose through a crowd of players to head the ball home to give Wigan the lead that their play deserved.
Huddersfield struggled to master the conditions as Wigan dominated the play but the away side almost made Wigan pay for their wastefulness in front of goal when a shot from former Blackpool midfielder Southern took a wicked deflection which had Nichols scrambling across his goal, the ball thankfully for him and the home fans spinning just wide of the far post for a goal kick.
Fortune continued to plough a lonely furrow up front and earned the ire of the away fans in the North stand when he went down under a challenge in the penalty area , claiming a penalty , a decision that didn’t go in his favour as the referee quite correctly waved play on.
Wigan continued to dominate without adding to their tally and were made to pay deep into injury time when a shot from Huddersfield’s best player Norwood took a wicked deflection, totally wrong footing Nicholls and giving Huddersfield an undeserved equaliser.
Any worries that the equalising goal may have had a negative effect on the Wigan team were very quickly dispelled after half time as Wigan continued to push forwards with Fortune left holding his head in his hands after his close range shot following good work by Boyce came back off the post. However within four minutes Wigan had what would turn out to be the winning goal when Powell was allowed to run unchallenged and his powerful shot found the back of the net.
This should have been the catalyst for Wigan to push on and make the game safe however they chose to defend deeper allowing Huddersfield especially substitute Scannell to push forwards in search of an equaliser, the away side dominating the second hald possession statistics as a result. Wigan held on comfortably though, the nearest the away side coming to levelling things up was when a shot squirmed under Nicholls body but the young keeper managed to stop the ball from going over the line.
Latics looked to punish Huddersfield on the break but despite further notable efforts by Powell the game drew to a close with a well deserved victory for the home side in a game low on quality but high in endeavour.
Team Line up and Player Ratings
Nicholls…..7, another competent assured performance from the keeper.
Boyce…..7, a captains performance
Barnett…..7.5, marshalled the defence superbly and a fine goal.
Shotton…..7, growing in stature every game he plays.
Perch…….7, playing out of position but looks comfortable.
McManaman….6.5, showed flashes of quality….withdrawn
Watson…..7, controlled centre midfield
McCann…..7, a tenacious performance
Powell……8, the standout player once again.
Fortune…..6, wasted a couple of gilt edged chances…..withdrawn
McClean for Gomez…..5, little influence
Albrighton for McManaman……5, anonymous.
Holt for Fortune….5, little impact
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