Caldwell hails exceptional’ Latics

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

Gary Caldwell admitted Wigan Athletic served up a season’s best performance to hammer Southend - and all-but secure promotion back to the Championship.

Latics flew out of the blocks against a shell-shocked Shrimpers side with nothing to play for.

Goals from Chris McCann and Will Grigg had them two up inside 17 minutes, with the latter adding a second goal before half-time.

Michael Jacobs bagged number four at the start of the second half, with Southend - who failed to muster a single effort on target in the 90 minutes - being gifted a consolation when captain Craig Morgan put through his own goal in the final quarter.

“I think it was up there with the best of the season, when we’ve been on the front foot,” gushed Caldwell.

“We’re at our best when we’re aggressive with and without the ball, and I thought we were today.

“For the goals, when we had the ball and cut them open, and when we won the ball back with aggressive pressure, and broke, it was exceptional.

“I thought we looked flat in the last half-hour, which was understandable given the energy we’d put in.

“The game just seemed to die a little, and we lost a little bit of control in that spell.

“But I can’t fault the players - they were exceptional throughout.”

Caldwell admitted throwing everything at Southend from the off had been a deliberate ploy.

“The emphasis in the week and in the changing room before the game was to start well,” he acknowledged.

“With a team like Southend, in mi-table, if they grow into the game they can start to think: ‘Nice stadium, nice pitch, lovely day, we can enjoy ourselves here’.

“We said we wanted to be a little bit more direct than we normally are, get the ball forward, and let them know this is going to be a long day.

“We wanted them to know they had to work very hard to stay in the game, and they couldn’t live with it.

“The tone was set at the start, and we were able to control the game from then on.”

Grigg’s two goals took his tally to the season to 26 - 23 of them in the league, which puts him one clear of Swindon’s Nicky Ajose in the scoring charts.

“I think he could have had four or five goals - and he was the same when he came off,” recognised Caldwell.

“That’s the type of player I want at this club.

“I want players who are not satisfied with scoring 26 goals, they want 27.

“Since the turn of the year, he’s been incredible in front of goal.

“And not just that, it’s also his work-rate for the team as well.”

Caldwell also hailed the performance of Jacobs, whose second successive start since returning from a three-month lay-off brought a second goal.

“I think if Michael had stayed fit he’d have been up there for Player of the Year,” the Latics boss opined.

“His all-round game was incredible, and the energy he gives us off the ball for a forward player is fantastic.

“His final ball, his final decision, was first class.

“Again he’s someone who works hard every day, and he wants to play at a higher level.”

There was also special praise for McCann, who was preferred to Sam Morsy in the engine room and fully justified his selection with an outstanding display.

“I thought Chris was excellent at Burton on Tuesday night, and his performance deserved to stay in the team,” added Caldwell.

“We worked on him yesterday, filling the space inside that Yanic (Wildschut) provides.

“I felt with his energy and his legs he could cause problems in there, and I thought his performance was exceptional.”