Crewe Alexandra 2 Wigan Athletic 3

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell
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A brace from Jordy Hiwula and an absolute thunderbolt from Yanic Wildschut kept Wigan Athletic on the Wembley trail as they edged a JPT thriller at Crewe.

Latics had to twice come from behind to secure their safe passage to round three after a thoroughly entertaining and absorbing encounter.

After Sanmi Odelusi had won and missed a penalty with barely a minute gone, Marcus Haber gave struggling Crewe the lead inside five minutes.

Hiwula forced home the first equaliser from close range, but Alex went back in front through Ryan Colclough’s 35th-minute strike.

Latics were indebted to Hiwula for bailing them out of trouble again just after the three-quarter mark, with a neat finish.

And a cracking game was eventually won by a strike of utter magnificence as Wildschut picked up the ball inside his own half, and advanced through the midfield before smashing a fantastic strike that flew into the top corner of the net.

Latics had to withstand 10 minutes of stoppage-time due to home defender George Ray suffering a worrying-looking injury in the second half.

But they nearly finished as they had started - with a bang - as Hiwula came agonisingly close to notching his hat-trick only to be denied by the goalkeeper.

The referee’s whistle was barely out of his mouth at the kick-off when Odelusi advanced into the area before having his heels clipped by Jon Guthrie.

The ex-Bolton man grabbed the ball himself and sent it firmly to the goalkeeper’s right.

Credit to Ben Garratt, though, who read the winger and managed to parry the ball out to safety.

And the home side took full advantage by taking the lead within five minutes.

The visiting defence couldn’t clear and Haber rifled home from close range past Jussi Jaaskelainen.

After four home defeats in a row, Crewe would have appreciated the chance to settle on their lead.

But Latics were right back at them and quickly reduced the arrears.

Crewe had a huge let-off when Andy Kellett’s inswinging corner from the right deceived everyone and kissed the bar on its way out of the danger area.

But Latics weren’t to be denied and, seconds later, Max Power’s cross was headed back by Wildschut and forced home by Hiwula.

It was a real end-to-end opening to the contest, and Latics almost nosed in front when Donervon Daniels’ cross was tipped away by a back-pedalling Garratt when it looked as though it was going to loop into the net.

At the other end, George Cooper crossed for Haber to flash a header just wide of Jaaskelainen’s goal.

The big Finn was called into action straight from the restart to deny Cooper himself.

But he blotted his copybook 10 minutes before the interval by allowing Colclough’s shot to sneak in at the near post to give Alex the lead at the halfway mark.

Understandably the second period didn’t kick-off with anywhere near the intensity or excitement as the first.

Indeed, the first incident of note was the 54th-minute introduction of Grant Holt off the bench for his first appearance in nearly 10 months following a serious knee injury.

There followed a lengthy break in play after Crewe defender Ray suffered what looked like a serious-looking injury of his own after winning an aerial collision.

When play finally resumed, it was Latics who got back into their stride the quicker as they pushed for an equaliser.

The home defence managed to hold out until the three-quarter mark, until Latics forced their way through for the second time.

Daniels cut in from the right and smashed a vicious left-foot strike that rattled against the post and away.

Before Crewe could clear, Wildschut crossed for Hiwula to bundle it home from close range.

With the spectre of penalty kicks looming, it was Latics who looked the team most likely to win it.

And they went ahead for the first time in jaw-dropping fashion, when Wildschut carried the ball fully 50 yards before unleashing a rocket that flew past the Garratt before he could move.

It was a goal fit to win any game, and seemed to knock the stuffing out of the home side.

They briefly threatened when Haber found himself in time and space only to lob the ball over both Jaaskelainen but also his crossbar.

Latics almost sealed it inside the first of 10 added minutes when Power’s shot took a massive deflection that wrong-footed the goalkeeper, who was relieved to see it fly inches past the post.

And Crewe knew it wasn’t to be their night when Haber’s shot was well saved by Jaaskelainen into the path of substitute Lauri Dalla Valle.

But from eight yards out the striker headed over a virtually-unguarded net.

Latics had one final chance to make the game safe but, after doing all the ground work, Hiwula shot weakly against the goalkeeper when he ought to hgave bagged his hat-trick.

Crewe: Garratt; Turton, Nugent, Ray, Guthrie; Cooper, Fox, Atkinson, Inman; Colclough, Haber.

Subs: Nizic, Dalla Valle, King, Baillie (for Ray, 62), Ainley (for Cooper, 66).

Latics: Jaaskelainen; Daniels, Hendry, McCann; Wildschut, Power, Kellett; Francisco, Odelusi; Hiwula.

Subs: O’Donnell, Anson, Chow (for Wildschut, 84), Cowie, Holt (for Odelusi, 54).

Referee: J Adcock

Star Man: Jordy Hiwula