WIGAN Robin Park started life in the North West Counties Premier Division with a 1-0 victory over Maine Road on Saturday.
A 50th minute goal from Robins’ talisman Ryan Small was all that separated the teams at the final whistle.
The Robins could have been three-up within the first 30 minutes as Shaun Judge and Phil Howard both should have done better from close range, while Dougie Pitts’ header hit the side netting with the goal gaping.
At the other end keeper Jay Foulds produced two great saves to deny the Maine Road attackers.
However it was the Robins that came out of the half-time break the fresher. A slick move saw Howard break down the left before pulling the ball back for Small who guided it into the corner of the net to put Wigan ahead.
The game was played in a great spirit and Maine Road threw everything at the Robins but the defence – including debutants Ian Rowlands and Phil Johnson – dealt with it admirably.
After the game manager John Neafcy was content with the result.
He said: “It’s another step up for us and considering we were missing a few players today I’m really happy with how we played. We had six debutants in the squad and they’ve all been excellent.
“It’s going to be a real learning curve for everybody at the club but we’re all looking forward to it and are aiming to do as well as possible.”
Match-winner Small was happy with his contribution but was surprised by the difference in standards from last season.
He said: “I was out on my feet in the last ten minutes as the pace was much quicker and we had less time on the ball than I’m used to.
“But we’ve got the players to cope and I expect us to find our feet by the end of August.”
In their first away fixture of the season on Tuesday night, the Robins went down 2-0 at Championship favourites Bootle.
This Saturday Robin Park hit the Wembley trail when they visit Padiham in the extra-preliminary round of the FA Cup.
The victors will be at home to Burscough in the next round.