Wigan gained a vital three points with a hard fought away win at relegation rivals Rotherham yesterday to reduce the gap to safety down to six points.
Wigan made one change from the team that lost to Leeds with Al Habsi making his one hundredth and fiftieth appearance for Wigan as a replacement for the injured Scott Carson
Rotherham started the game like a side fighting for their championship lives and within the first minute they had a chance when Boyce allowed Pringle too much room on the right and his cross was met by Derbyshire but the ball went narrowly wide.
Both sides looked to play the ball on the ground, the level pitch making this easy with Rotherham using the width of the pitch with Pringle the key man in most of the moves, looking to feed Derbyshire and ex Latics man Connor Sammon. Wigan with the centre back partnership of Pearce and Maguire providing outstanding protection of the Wigan goal, the majority of the moves were comfortably snuffed out.
Wigan seemed content to play the counter attack game and this tactic paid off when McClean bust through from midfield and was fouled by Broadfoot on the edge of the penalty area. McClean reacted strongly to the foul and earned himself a tenth yellow card of the season and a two match ban as a reward.
From the resultant free kick a superb pin point free kick by Pennant hit the back of the net with the Rotherham keeper stranded sparking wild celebrations amongst the large travelling Latics away following.
Five minutes later another free kick in virtually the same position, this time for a foul on Fortune, enabled Pennant to once again display his virtuosity this time beating the keepr ont he other side with the same result.
If that wasn’t good enough, he then repeated that goal with arguably an even better one five minutes later.
Wigan were in the ascendancy despite Rotherham having most of the play and Rotherham gave themselves a lifeline in the two minutes time added on, when a poor clearance from a corner saw the ball fall to Pringle unmarked whose cross was met by Derbyshire who put the ball past Al Habsi to reduce the deficit.
Rotherham started the second half on the front foot, no doubt fired up by Steve Evans half time team talk and within a minute they had their first chance of the half when a cross from wide right flew across the six yard area without anyone getting on the end of the move.
Wigan continued to defend deep and a frustrated Rotherham side were reduced to long throw ins and high and hopeful balls, all of which seemed to be directed onto the head of Harry Maguire so dominant was the Wigan centre half. As the game wore on, Kim came more to the fore for Wigan, breaking forwards from his own half looking to free either Fortune or McClean but unfortunately for Wigan his efforts went unrewarded as the front two were unable to convert the chances with Fortune in particular seeming to struggle to retain his footing.
On the rare occasion that the Wigan defence was unable to clear the ball, keeper Al Habsi showed his worth by saving well from a powerful Arnasson’s header.
Wigan created very few clear cut chances and their best effort came from fluke when a deflected shot from Kvist saw Collins in the Rotherham goal back-pedalling to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.
As the game progressed into its final stages, a superb double reflex save in the space of five seconds from Al Habsi saved the three points for Wigan. The Omani dove to thwart a Bowery header and then was up again to save the follow up shot.
The full time whistle brought euphoric celebrations as all the players rushed en masse to celebrate their fourth successive away win in front of their delighted supporters and whilst it wasn’t their best attacking performance of the season it ranked up at the top as one of the best defensive performances of the season.
Team Line up and Player Ratings
Al Habsi……9, MOM , showed fantastic reflexes.
Boyce…….6, lacking in pace but never gave up
Bong…….6, exposed by pace on the wing.
Pearce…..8, superb marshalling of the back four.
Maguire……8.5, a key man in the win.
Perch………6, kept going in midfield.
Kim………..7, a superb battle with Pringle.
Ojo……….6, flashes of skill, withdrawn.
Pennant…..8, two of the best free kicks I’ve seen, inside five minutes, withdrawn.
McClean…..6, allowed his temper to get the better of him.
Fortune…….5, not his best performance, struggled to retain his footing.
Kvist……6, ( for Ojo), provided defensive steel to survive the Rotherham onslaught.
Cowie ….5, ( for Pennant) little impact
Entertainment rating….6/10, not one for the football purists but a welcome three points
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