Blackpool 1 Wigan Athletic 1 (Latics win 5-4 on penalties)

Alex Gilbey
Alex Gilbey

The ‘Super Troupers’ of Wigan Athletic kicked off their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a narrow win at Blackpool - via the all-new ABBA-style penalty shoot-out.

A 90 minutes low on quality and excitement had ended 1-1 but, rather than share the spoils, the winner takes it all in this competition even at the group stage.

Composure under pressure from 12 yards was very much the name of the game with an extra bonus point up for grabs.

And although James Barrigan fluffed his lines with his chance to win it, successful spot-kicks from Max Power, Alex Gilbey, Noel Hunt, Victor Maffeo and Josh Laurent saw Latics home.

Gilbey had earlier given Latics the lead on the hour mark with a fine strike from the edge of the penalty area.

Substitute Fin Sinclair-Smith levelled the scores with three minutes to go to take the game to penalties.

But in truth the major positives from the evening was valuable match minutes for a host of players, including a sparkling cameo off the bench from young Spanish winger Maffeo

Boss Paul Cook had pledged to field a side full of youth and fringe players, naming a seven-man bench without a single senior Wigan start between them.

Blackpool, too, made 11 changes from the weekend, and the obvious indifference to the competition from both benches inevitably made its way out the to the middle.

In a first half desperately short of quality, Jamie Jones made a decent save to deny Blackpool’s Scott Quigley while, at the other end, Power fired a yard over the top.

Seconds before the whistle, the game almost received a goal it scarcely deserved, when Callum Lang curled a beautiful free-kick that beat the wall and the outstretched fingers of Ben Williams, only to hit the bar and rebound away off the back of the home goalkeeper.

The 1,532 fans inside the stadium would have been hoping that the second period couldn’t really have been lower on excitement.

And after Quigley again forced Jones into action, we finally had a goal with 63 minutes on the clock.

Gilbey was given too much time and space on the edge of the area, and found the bottom corner of the net past the despairing dive of Williams.

The visitors then made a couple of changes, Hunt and Maffeo for Lang and Luke Burgess, with Barrigan soon following to take over from Chris Merrie.

A dipping volley from Power almost made the game safe, only to see it tipped over by Williams at full stretch.

And Maffeo came within inches of capping his debut with a brilliant goal, with his stinging shot from 25 yards flying an inch past the upright.

Latics paid a high price for not killing the game off when they were pegged back with three minutes to go - only to emerge victorious after a dramatic shoot-out.