Wigan Athletic 0 Reading 3

Adam Le Fondre
Adam Le Fondre

Warren Joyce’s hopes of kicking off his Wigan Athletic managerial career with a bang went up in flames on Bonfire Night as Reading romped to an embarrassingly-easy 3-0 triumph at the DW Stadium.

Incredibly, Latics were two goals down inside five minutes, while the new man was still finding his feet in the home technical area.

First, Garath McCleary took advantage of fatal hesitation between Dan Burn and Adam Bogdan to flick over the stranded goalkeeper with only 58 seconds on the clock.

Then the same player walked through a non-existent Latics midfield to drill home from the edge of the area with alarming ease.

Latics were unable to muster much to threaten the goal of Ali Al Habsi, making his first return to Wigan since his departure in the summer of 2015, during a woeful first-half display.

The half-time introduction of Yanic Wildschut off the bench at least gave the Wigan fans something to get remotely excited about.

But Reading made the game safe just after the hour mark, when Max Power brought down John Swift inside the penalty area and Yann Kermorgant made no mistake from the spot.

Latics picked up a little in the final quarter when Will Grigg joined Wildschut on the field, which sparked some semblance of life to proceedings.

But Al Habsi pulled off a couple of decent saves at full stretch, while Wildschut fired just wide in stoppage-time to deny Joyce even a scrap of consolation.

The Royals even had a fourth goal from Yakou Meite right on the full-time whistle chalked off for offside, but the boos from the home supporters still inside the DW at the end - as there had been after all three goals and on the half-time whistle - underlined the size of task the new manager has in front of him.

Joyce will have scarcely believed what was unfolding in front of him as the game-plan was effectively thrown out of the window while some fans were still taking their seats.

After McCleary was gifted two of the easiest goals he will ever score, Kermorgant then had another couple of gilt-edged chances that ought to have put the game out of Wigan’s reach inside the opening quarter.

Fortunately for the home side, Jake Buxton was twice on hand to divert the ball away from goal, the second one landing on the roof of the net to the relief of Bogdan and his colleagues.

Adam Le Fondre - surprisingly preferred to Grigg up top - was feeding off scraps, but he was at least trying to get involved.

The ex-Reading man almost succeeded in playing in Jordi Gomez and then tried to wriggle through himself, only for the flag to go up on both occasions.

But as half-time arrived, returning hero Al Habsi’s only problem was keeping his body warm and his mind occupied, with very little else to do.

That threatened to change at the start of the second period, when half-time substitute Wildschut twice destroyed Wales full-back Chris Gunter down the Latics left.

Unfortunately, his crosses didn’t find a blue shirt, but Latics were at least showing themselves as an attacking force.

A clever backheel from Michael Jacobs was deflected wide for a corner, before Le Fondre spun and shot straight at Al Habsi when he might have done better.

Le Fondre went closer moments later when he saw a fierce shot deflect off the leg of a defender and towards the far corner of the net, only to be tipped round the post by Al Habsi at full stretch.

Latics made their second change on the hour with Nathan Byrne taking over from Buxton, but the game was over as a contest before the new man had touched the ball.

Power was adjudged to have brought down Swift as the Reading man tried to reach a cross from the left, and Kermorgant’s spot-kick was past Bogdan before the goalkeeper could move.

It could and perhaps should have been 4-0 within seconds as Danny Williams raced clean through on goal, only to blast miles over the top from 12 yards.

There were ironic cheers from the home fans as Grigg entered the fray with 70 minutes on the clock and the game already long-since over as a contest.

But Wigan’s top scorer made an immediate impression, instantly controlling a cross from Byrne into the path of Shaun MacDonald, whose shot was well saved.

MacDonald then repaid the favour to Grigg, only for the effort to be snuffed out, with Power and Wildschut also having goalbound shots blocked.

Wildschut came closer still to pulling one back in stoppage-time when he collected the ball just inside the Reading half, and advanced to the edge of the area before sending a fizzing shot inches wide of the far post.

But Reading almost added salt to the wounds with the last kick of the game, only for substitute Meite to turn and see the flag up after firing past Bogdan from close range.