WIGAN Robin Park bounced back from their midweek disappointment in the Lancashire Challenge Trophy when they eased past Staffordshire outfit Leek CSOB 4-0 on Saturday.
A Phil Howard hat-trick, along with a goal from Steve Edwards, was enough to see the Robins home.
With a couple of players missing through injury and unavailability, manager John Neafcy went with a 4-3-3 system that after a half an
hour of bedding-in, worked a treat.
On a cold and blustery day and on a heavy pitch, the Old Boys had the first meaning-ful attack but Karl Miller just failed to meet a cross with his head as the ball sailed out for a throw-in.
This was more or less the last time that Robins’ keeper Jay Foulds was troubled as the midfield – led by the superb Ben Kay – controlled the game.
Chris McNally should have done better when he headed wide on 22 minutes, and went close moments later with a shot.
However, on 43 minutes Steve Edwards stretched to get on the end of a lovely Andy Mawdesley cross, turned sharply and hit a crisp shot into the corner to give Wigan the half-time advantage.
The second period was all Robins as Howard collected a deserved hat-trick.
His first came on 55 minutes when he latched on to a precision pass from Kay and finished neatly to double the Robins’ lead.
Five minutes later Howard took control of a free-kick 20 yards out and unleashed a rocket drive that took a wicked deflection to beat Rob Hackney in the Old Boys goal.
On 72 minutes he scored his third – his 20th league goal of the season and the Robins’ 100th away goal in the North West Counties League – when he got on the end of a wonderful cross from namesake Adam Howard to head home.
Manager Neafcy then made three substitutions as his side eased to a win and cemented their second place in the table, two points behind Abbey Hey but with three games in hand.
After the game Neafcy said: “It was a good professional performance in terrible conditions and I think after the break we were terrific.
“The three up front all played well and caused a lot of problems but I thought the defence and midfield, led superbly by
Luke Faulkner and Ben Kay respectively, gave us the platform to build on.”
This Saturday the Robins are at home to fourth-placed Irlam in what should be a terrific game.
Kick-off at the Arena is 3pm and admission is £5 (£2.50 concessions).
Elsewhere in the North West Counties top flight action, Ashton Athletic fell to a 4-0 home defeat against Glossop North End as Sam Hind grabbed a first-half hat-trick.
While in Division One, Ashton Town lost 2-1 at home to Abbey Hey.
Lee Edmunds scored a late consolation goal for Town.