A COUPLE of own goals either side of half-time gave Wigan Athletic a comfortable 2-0 victory at Southport.
On a beautiful afternoon in the West Lancashire sunshine, Latics were always in control but unable to convert their dominance into goals.
The opener came on the stroke of half-time when Billy Mckay cut the ball back from the left-hand byline and Will Beesley rifled into the roof of his own net.
Then, seven minutes after the restart, Max Power whipped in a free-kick that was glanced past his own goalkeeper by Southport’s trialist centre-back.
Andrew Taylor hit the bar in the first half with a powerful header from Power’s deadly delivery.
Power himself then hit the post with a shot that beat the goalkeeper but came back off the woodwork.
Latics goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell had relatively little to do, but he did pull off a stunning save at point-blank range to deny Southport’s trialist striker from pulling a goal back just before the hour mark.
O’Donnell had started behind a five-man defensive line, with James Perch, Craig Morgan and Donervon Daniels at centre-back and the width being provided by Andrew Taylor and veteran Kevin McNaughton, playing as a trialist at right-back.
And McNaughton saw plenty of the action in the opening quarter as he sought to show Gary Caldwell what he can do.
The ex-Cardiff and Bolton man nearly got in at the far post off Tim Chow’s cross from the left-hand side.
Another cross from the left found McNaughton racing into the area, but his header from 15 yards finished well over the bar.
The wing-backs were getting forward at every opportunity, and Taylor almost broke the deadlock from Wigan’s next attack, only to see his powerful header from Power’s cross strike the bar and rebound out.
Nice interplay between Mckay and Sanmi Odelusi saw the latter’s shot deflected wide, before Taylor again came close only to swing a right-footer over the top.
Wigan’s frustration continued when Power’s shot beat the home goalkeeper only to hit the post, but the breakthrough did eventually come seconds before the half-time whistle.
Mckay did all the donkey work down the left, and his pull-back was finished off with aplomb by an unfortunate Beesley for a classic own goal.
Southport shot themselves in the foot again shortly after the restart when Power’s free-kick found the head of a defensive trialist to leave the trialist goalkeeper again with no chance.
Credit to the home side for not giving up the ghost, and they nearly pulled one back when their striking trialist wriggled through only to see O’Donnell tip his shot over the top.
There then followed a raft of changes from Latics - nine in total - that, as had been the case at Altrincham in midweek, saw the game lose much of its tempo and meaning.
Substitute Adrian Purzychi thought he’d scored number three only for fellow youngster Ryan Jennings to have been rightly called for a foul in the build-up.
Seconds later Jennings brought a bit of the competitive edge back to the game by sliding in somewhat unnecessarily on a home defender, who understandably didn’t appreciate the challenge.
In came Jordan Flores to back up his pal, which led to a short melee involving several players from both sides that was eventually calmed down by referee Ian Hussin.
The 1218 Wigan supporters in the crowd of 1835 were almost treated to a debut goal for Will Grigg, the £1million man from Brentford.
Grigg was unable to control the ball inside the area, however, and when it rolled forward to Louis Robles the offside flag quickly went up.
Latics almost added a third in the dying seconds only for Jennings’ cross-shot, aimed towards the far post, to get cleared before Robles could tap it home.
Latics: O’Donnell; McNaughton, Daniels, Morgan, Perch, Taylor; Chow, Power, Perkins; Odelusi, Mckay.
Subs: Nicholls, Tavernier, Purzychi (for Perkins), Grigg (for Odelusi), Gregory (for Taylor), Jennings (for Power), Flores (for McNaughton), Burke (for Chow), Barnett (for Morgan), Anson (for Daniels), Waghorn, Robles (for Mckay).
Attendance: 1835 (1218 away supporters)