Wigan Athletic 3 Bristol Rovers 0

Gavin Massey
Gavin Massey

Goals from Nick Powell, Will Grigg and Gavin Massey gave Wigan Athletic a 3-0 victory over Bristol Rovers that was far more emphatic than the scoreline would suggest.

Right from the off, the home side were head and shoulders above their opponents, with only a mixture of bad luck, below-par finishing and inspired goalkeeping ensuring the game was kept in the balance.

Powell opened the scoring for Latics on the half-hour mark with a superb free-kick from the edge of the area, after Michael Jacobs had been tripped in full flow.

The foul on Jacobs, by Ryan Sweeney, saw the Rovers centre-back shown a straight red card by referee Carl Boyeson, and the visitors were up against it from then on.

After a succession of close calls, Grigg made it 2-0 five minutes after the restart with a deadly finish - his first league goal since September 27 last year.

However, having failed to make the most of their superiority, Latics left the door open for Rovers, who were awarded a penalty 10 minutes from time.

Lee Evans was adjudged to have handballed Tom Nicholl’s free-kick as he stood in the Wigan wall, and Boyeson pointed straight to the spot.

Wigan fans will feel justice was done when Jamie Jones guessed right and parried away Ellis Harrison’s spot-kick.

And the icing was applied to the cake in stoppage-time when Massey played a lovely one-two with substitute Gary Roberts before slotting into the back of the net.

The result - Wigan’s second 3-0 win in the space of four days - means they can move up to second place in the table with victory over Northampton on Tuesday night in their game in hand.

Grigg would have been delighted to have broken his duck for the season but, in truth, he could easily have had a hat-trick.

He took delivery of a lovely ball through the left channel in the opening exchanges but didn’t shoot first time, and his effort was blocked for a corner.

Latics had half a shout for a penalty when Jacobs weaved his way into the area and the ball struck the hand of a defender, but the official waved play on.

The home side had found their rhythm, though, and a lovely move saw Powell play the ball out to Reece James, whose cross was headed against the goalkeeper by Massey.

A swerving shot from Powell was scrambled away by the goalkeeper back to the same player, whose follow up was well wide.

But Rovers were certainly hanging on well before the flashpoint on the half-hour that got Latics on their way.

It looked as though the visitors had dodged a bullet when the referee chose only to award a free-kick right on the edge of the box when Jacobs tumbled into the area having been tripped on the edge.

But after the red card was brandished, Powell exacted the perfect with a vicious free-kick that flew in to the net.

Sadly for Powell, that was his last involvement, before he limped off, to be replaced by Ivan Toney, who slotted in just in front of Grigg.

Toney and Grigg immediately came within inches of applying a crucial touch to a Jacobs cross, with the visitors grateful indeed to hear the half-time whistle.

The respite was only temporary, however, with Grigg doubling the lead within five minutes of the restart with a deadly finish from a tight angle.

Toney almost made it three after taking a lovely ball from Evans, only for the goalkeeper to save superbly with his feet.

A left-foot snapshot from Jacobs looked as though it was arrowing towards the top corner before only to almost take off the head of defender Tom Lockyer.

The only criticism at the hour mark was that the game had totally been put to bed, despite Wigan’s total dominance.

And the precarious nature of a two-goal lead was underlined in the last quarter as the 10 men ventured forward with nothing to lose.

Jones had to help behind a 30-yard effort from Chris Lines, before Rory Gaffney elected not to shoot from a great position but to try to find a colleague, which allowed Dan Burn to mop up the danger.

There was a standing ovation for Grigg as he made way for Roberts with 20 minutes to go, which would surely have impressed the watching Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill in the directors’ box.

Still the door remained ajar, though, and Rovers almost kicked it open with just over 10 minutes left, when Evans was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box as a Rovers free-kick was lashed straight at the Latics wall.

Jones, though, guessed right and got his team-mate out of jail with a superb penalty save to deny Harrison.

Skipper Sam Morsy, who had been flirting with a second yellow for some time, made way for Max Power for the last 10 minutes, with a sizeable chunk of the home fans making the new-boy aware of their disapproval of his behaviour over the summer, which had seen him temporarily placed on the transfer list.

There was to be one more goal in the game, and it went the way of Latics, with Massey scoring his third goal in the space of four days in the last of the five added minutes - which did not flatter the hosts in the slightest.