Colchester 3Wigan Athletic 3

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

A last-minute goal from Will Grigg rescued Wigan Athletic’s blushes as they were held by rock-bottom Colchester in a six-goal thriller.

The result extends second-placed Wigan’s unbeaten run to 15 matches - with only two defeats in their last 29 league matches for Gary Caldwell’s men.

But the gap to third-placed Gillingham and fourth-placed Walsall has been cut to just three points, with the Saddlers also holding a crucial game in hand.

Latics had twice led, through Yanic Wildschut’s 36th-minute effort and Ryan Colclough’s second goal for the club on the stroke of half-time.

But the U’s levelled through two fantastic strikes from first Alex Gilbey and then Elliot Lee five minutes after the restart.

It had even looked like Latics might go home with nothing after Reece Wabara was harshly penalised for a foul in the box on George Moncur, who scored from the penalty spot on the hour mark.

But after throwing on all three substitutes - and finishing with a 2-4-4 formation - Caldwell’s men got their reward in the very last minute.

After Andy Kellett had hit the bar with a cross-shot, fellow replacement Craig Davies saw a shot deflect to Grigg, who calmly finished into the bottom corner to notch his 18th of the season.

It wasn’t enough to put a smile on the face of the watching manager.

But it may, who knows, be the precious point that takes Latics back in to the Championship at the first attempt.

In fairness, neither side will feel they deserved to lose a thoroughly entertaining encounter that was end to end right from the off.

With a draw not really of any use to the relegation-threatened U’s, there was none of the cagey tactics Latics have come up against all too often this season.

And the visitors were able to find their rhythm inside the opening quarter.

Good work from Wildschut found Grigg, who was denied by a smart double save by goalkeeper Elliot Parish - the first straight at him and the second diving to his left.

Last man Joe Edwards was then caught dilly-dallying and almost had his pocket picked by Wildschut, who couldn’t quite make the most of the opportunity.

Grigg was almost in again after good work from debutant Stephen Warnock, although the striker’s attempted backheel flick barely made it through to the goalkeeper.

Parish was called into the action again when he made another fine reflex save to deny Max Power, after a clever pull-back from Wildschut.

But Latics were given a warning just before the half-hour mark when Lee’s shot was scrambled away by Jussi Jaaskelainen at full stretch.

Jaaskelainen pulled off a fine double save soon after to deny Moncur and Lee, with the home side visibly growing in confidence as they sensed they could hurt the visitors.

But Latics quickly nipped that optimism in the bud with a textbook counter-attacking goal nine minutes before half-time.

Grigg’s switch of play was perfect for Wildschut to run on to, and the Dutchman bided his time before side-footing home to put Latics ahead.

However, the visitors never had chance to build on their lead, as they were pegged back within four minutes.

Gilbey was given far too much time and space, 25 yards from goal, and his crisp shot arrowed into the top corner past Jaaskelainen.

The goal got the long-suffering home fans - who hadn’t seen their side win at home since October 20 - up on their feet.

However, they were sat back down within five minutes as, with half-time approaching, Wildschut found Colclough, who finished with aplomb.

There was still time before the whistle for Lee to get in down the left and aim a cross-shot inches past the far post.

But the ex-Blackpool loan man made no mistake five minutes after the restart, when he took aim from 30 yards with Jaaskelainen again unable to keep it out.

And the home fans were in dreamland on the hour mark when Wabara was penalised - incredible harshly at first glance - for a foul on Moncur, who rubbed salt into the wounds by sending Jaaskelainen the wrong way from 12 yards.

It almost went from very bad to even worse for Latics when Edwards fired just wide of Jaaskelainen’s goal, and that was the signal for Caldwell to make his first change.

Holding midfielder Sam Morsy was the man to make way, with Andy Kellett on to provide a bit of guile further up the field.

Kellett was soon joined on the field by Craig Davies, for Colclough, and the changes energised the visitors.

Twinkle-toes from Wildschut down the byline saw him bear in on goal, but he could only stab his shot inches past the far post.

Then, from a Max Power corner, Donervon Daniels headed on to the roof of the net.

That was Daniels’ final involvement, with the big defender sacrificed to make way for Haris Vuckic as Caldwell went all in for the last six minutes.

Latics almost dragged themselves level in the most fortuitous circumstances when Kellett clearly overhit a left-wing cross, only to see it loop over goalkeeper Parish and bounce off the top of the crossbar.

But the equaliser did eventually come in the last minute when Davies’ shot deflected to Grigg, who made no mistake from close range.

With five added minutes, there was only going to be one winner, and Davies might have done better having got to Wabara’s cross, only for his header to loop in the air and into the safe arms of Parish.

There was to be one final chance in the final added minute - right in front of the 582 Latics fans behind the goal.

But, after cutting in off the right-hand side, Vuckic’s shot fizzed inches past the post with Parish not getting there.