Sheffield United 0 Wigan Athletic 2

Will Grigg
Will Grigg

WIGAN Athletic moved up to third place in League One - and only a point off automatic promotion - after a comfortable 2-0 victory at Sheffield United.

In doing so, Gary Caldwell’s men exorcised the demons of last month’s corresponding fixture at the DW, when a late capitulation saw them surrender a three-goal lead and a couple of precious points to the South Yorkshiremen.

Two goals in the space of three minutes at the start of the second period were enough to hand Latics a victory they undoubtedly deserved on the balance of the 90 minutes.

Will Grigg scored the first from the penalty spot on 52 minutes, blasting down the middle of the goal after Yanic Wildschut had been tripped in the area by Chris Basham.

And Everton loanee Conor McAleny doubled the lead on 55 minutes with a crisp finish into the bottom corner following good work from Wildschut and Max Power.

The winning margin could have been even greater had Grigg not missed a second penalty with 16 minutes to go.

Chris McCann was felled in the area by Paul Coutts for another stonewall spot-kick, but this time Grigg’s effort was saved by George Long, diving to his left.

Latics climb up a place above Gillingham, who were held 0-0 at home by Swindon, and are now only a point behind second-placed Walsall, who lost 3-0 at home to Millwall.

With a trip to Walsall to come after next weekend’s visit of struggling Oldham, Latics will be aiming to be in those coveted automatic promotion spots before the month is out.

Eventually their quality and class told at Bramall Lane, after a relatively drab first half in which neither side offered much in the way of productivity or invention.

Grigg and Wildschut almost got in through the left channel in the early exchanges, only to fail to test the goaalkeeper.

But hearts were in mouths at the other end, when Billy Sharp unleashed a snap-shot that flew just wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s right-hand post.

Jose Baxter then shot wide as the Blades continued to push, although Latics did end the half on top and created a couple of decent chances to go in front.

The breaking Grigg fed Wildschut, who pulled it back to McAleny just outside the box.

But the new man’s weak shot was blocked easily blocked by a home defender.

Then, two minutes before the break, Donervon Daniels sent over an enticing cross from the right-hand side.

After Grigg could’t connect at the near post, Wildschut blazed over at the far post to hand the home side a let-off.

The Blades almost took advantage within seconds of the restart, when Sharp got himself free at the far post and had a clear shooting chance from eight yards.

However, he fired straight at Jaaskelainen, who made a fine block.

And within five minutes, the game was effectively over as a contest.

The Blades were initially given a warning when they allowed McAleny to try his luck from just outside the area, only for Long to superbly tip the ball over at the expense of a corner.

But they weren’t so lucky moments later when Wildschut weaved into the area and was felled by Basham for a clear penalty.

And Grigg made no mistake, lashing the ball down the centre of the goal to notch his 14th goal of the campaign.

Before the home side could dust themselves down, Latics had gone two up.

Again Wildschut was involved, his run across field allowing Power to tee up McAleny.

With minimum fuss, the 23-year-old drilled the ball low into the bottom corner from the edge of the area, to leave Long clutching thin air.

It was a devastating example of Wigan’s attacking capabilities, and the Blades took some time to regroup.

A lovely move released Jay McEveley down the left, but the home skipper couldn’t hit the target from a promising position.

Latics were content to sit deep and attack on the counter at this stage, inviting a succession of hopeful crosses into the box.

From one excellent delivery from the left, Power was in the right place at the right time to hack clear with two attackers sniffing a half-chance.

Latics won another penalty with 16 minutes to go, when McCann was tripped by Coutts.

This time, however, Long outwitted Grigg and pulled off a decent save diving to his left.

That was Grigg’s last involvement, with Craig Davies replacing him for the last 13 minutes or so, joining Reece Wabara who’d taken over from McAleny.

United’s increasing frustration at time ticked by was obvious - on and off the pitch - with Sharp struggling to keep a lid on his own discipline.

After clipping Sam Morsy, the striker then went in late on Jason Pearce - a former Leeds team-mate - and was handed a yellow card by referee Stephen Martin.

Sharp’s mood wasn’t improved in the dying seconds when it looked like he had a tap-in, only to cut inside and allow Pearce the opportunity to hack the ball away - which he was thankful to take.