Rotherham United 1 Wigan Athletic 2

Jermaine Pennant celebrates with Malky Mackay
Jermaine Pennant celebrates with Malky Mackay

MALKY Mackay could not hide his delight after Jermaine Pennant bagged a brilliant brace to give Wigan Athletic a vital victory in the must-win clash at relegation rivals Rotherham.

Latics had gone into the clash eight points adrift of safety, but a couple of magnificent free-kicks from the ex-Liverpool winger proved decisive.

The first, on the half-hour mark, sailed over the wall and into the top left-hand corner of the net.

The second, five minutes later and from a virtually identical position, was directed into the opposite top corner, again giving the goalkeeper no chance.

Rotherham pulled a goal back in first half stoppage-time when Ben Pringle’s crisp cross was nodded home by Matt Derbyshire.

And the home side threw everything at their opponents in the second half to try to rescue a precious point.

Wigan’s backline stood firm until the 88th minute, when substitute Jordan Bowery got his head to a cross and directed it powerfully towards goal.

From nowhere, Ali Al Habsi stuck out a strong left hand to keep the ball out of the net.

Bowery looked a certain scorer from the follow-up, but again Al Habsi made a superb stop to keep his side in front.

“The most pleasing aspect of the day was the three points - that’s quite simple,” said Mackay.

“Overall I was delighted by the resilience and the momentum we’re showing at the moment - that’s three wins out of four, and four wins on the bounce on the road.

“We knew coming here would be absolutely critical, a very tough game.

“Knowing Steve (Evans), and having only played them quite recently, I knew his team would give us a tough game.

“They stand strong, stand firm and you have to match that from the start.

Overall I was delighted by the resilience and the momentum we’re showing at the moment - that’s three wins out of four, and four wins on the bounce on the road

Malky Mackay

“I also knew we were bringing 1,200 fans and that the atmosphere would be terrific.

“It was all there for two teams to go at it, and they did.

“I’ve very, very pleased with the performance, and the maturity of the performance.”

The only downside to the afternoon was the first-half caution for James McClean - his 10th of the campaign - which means he will miss Tuesday’s visit of Watford and next weekend’s derby against Bolton through suspension.

Latics are now six points behind Rotherham and Fulham and six adrift of Brighton with nine matches to go.