GARY Caldwell hailed Wigan Athletic’s ‘excellent’ performance as they edged a JPT thriller at Crewe by the odd goal in five.
The Railwaymen twice took the lead, but Latics remain on track for Wembley thanks to a brace from Jordy Hiwula and a thunderbolt from Yanic Wildschut that deserved to win any game.
It was Wigan’s first game in a competition they have twice won - in 1985 and 1999 - for 13 years.
Despite missing a second-minute Sanmi Odelusi penalty, they didn’t need any luck to stay in the hat for Saturday’s Northern Area quarter-final draw.
“I told the players it’s the start of a road to Wembley,” revealed Caldwell.
“Any time you have the opportunity to go to Wembley and try to win a cup, you want to try and do it.
“We made some changes tonight, gave some players the opportunity to show what they can do, and they took it.
“I thought we were excellent right from the off, we had a good attacking threat, and continued that through the game.
“We knew they were slow starters and had conceded a lot of goals early on, and we got after them.
“We got the penalty, we had other opportunities, and conceded two crazy goals that gave them a bit of hope in the game.
“We just kept going and going and we deserved to win in the end.”
Caldwelll paid special tribute to two-goal Hiwula, who has ploughed the lone furrow up top in recent weeks without rewards but filled his boots at Gresty Road.
“Jordy was obviously disappointed to come off at half-time on Saturday, and he’s answered that in the right way by producing a great performance and backing it up with goals,” gushed Caldwell.
“I thought he was superb - his movement, when he’s like that, makes him hard to mark.
“He arrives in the box at the right time, and he took his goals well. It’s a shame he didn’t score more.”
Hiwula might have had a hat-trick had he taken the early penalty Latics were awarded, only to be beaten to the ball by Odelusi, who saw his effort saved.
“I don’t know why Sanmi was taking it, but he had the confidence to take it - and it wasn’t to be,” added Caldwell.
Thankfully the penalty miss didn’t matter thanks to Wildschut’s late winner - a marauding run covering half the length of the field followed by a belting drive from 25 yards that was right out of the top drawer.
“It was unstoppabble,” acknowledged Caldwell. “At the time I’m thinking ‘get at them’, because he’s got bags of pace.
“He hit and I thought ‘what’s he doing’, and it flew in the top corner.
“If he can shoot like that he needs to shoot more often.”
Caldwell was also boosted by the substitute appearances of Grant Holt and Don Cowie, after lay-offs of 10 months and five months respectively.
He also confirmed Chris McCann tweaked his groin in the first half which brought about his early substitution.