Wigan Athletic 2 Gillingham 0

Will Grigg scores the opening goal against Gillingham
Will Grigg scores the opening goal against Gillingham
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Will Grigg and Nick Powell scored first-half goals to ensure Wigan Athletic ended a great week in style with a 2-0 win over form team Gillingham to consolidate their lead at the top of League One.

Latics had fought off the efforts of Premier League Brighton to pinch Powell on deadline day.

And the former Manchester United man showed why his decision to stay had provoked scenes of jubilation in the town with another sublime performance.

Grigg opened the scoring on 10 minutes with a deadly finish from close range after Reece James had done well down the left-hand side.

And Powell scored the goal his overall display warranted with a bullet header from Max Power’s pinpoint corner on 34 minutes.

Gillingham captain Max Ehmer headed against his own bar before Michael Jacobs hit a post at the beginning of the second period, which wouldn’t have flattered the home side.

The visitors, who’d hit the post in the first half through Tom Eaves, never gave up the fight, but never looked likely to extend their remarkable record record of six wins and two draws from their last eight matches.

Latics had a scare right at the end, when Elliott List thought he’d pulled one back for Gillingham in stoppage-time, but the celebrations were halted by an offside flag.

It means Paul Cook’s men remain two points clear at the top of League One over Shrewsbury, who have played a game more, but are now four points ahead of third-placed Blackburn, who have two fewer games remaining the table-toppers.

And if the chasing pair had hoped Latics might have been put off their strike by not being in league action for a fortnight - because of FA Cup commitments and a postponed game at Rochdale - they were sorely mistaken.

Right from the off, Latics tore into their visitors, and - as they had against the Hammers - led inside 10 minutes thanks to Grigg.

Left-back James provided the opportunity down the left, crossing through the six-yard box, and the Northern Ireland hitman slotted home from three yards.

Latics had an immediate let-off when Eaves flicked a header beyond Christian Walton, and was a tad unfortunate to see it come back off the far post.

But it was only a brief break from the norm, with the visitors being pushed further and further back.

Powell thought he’d got Ryan Colclough away through the middle but, just as the recalled winger pulled the trigger, he was clipped from behind by Ehmer.

The referee elected to brandish only yellow, and Gillingham’s escape was complete when Powell lashed the free-kick into the wall.

From the resultant corner, Grigg and Ehmer competed for the ball, with the Gills defender winning the contest, only to turn and see his header loop towards his own goal and bounce off the top of the bar.

Powell in particular was enjoying himself, with one arrogant flick that bamboozled two defenders and played in Nathan Byrne leading to chuckles of admiration from the stands.

Colclough then saw a shot touched round the post by the goalkeeper, but the respite was only temporary.

Power raced over to take the corner and, from his right-wing delivery, Powell climbed highest to plant a firm header into the top corner.

Gillingham managed to get through to half-time without further damage, but the suggestion was already that it was only really about damage limitation

Jamie Walker took over from Colclough early in the second period for his Latics debut, and he was quickly into the play with some nice touches.

After Jacobs hit a post and Dan Burn headed just wide from Sam Morsy’s cross, Walker led a two-on-one breakaway along with Jacobs.

Unselfishly, Walker elected to play in his team-mate, whose shot was well snaffled by the advancing goalkeeper.

There were a couple of scares inside the final quarter, the first of which came when Powell threw himself at a right-wing cross, and appeared to collide with a post, before being led off and substituted as a precaution.

That led to a first glimpse for the Wigan fans of Jay Fulton, with James Vaughan also taking over from the tireless Grigg.

As Latics played out time, Gillingham had one last attack, deep into stoppage-time, but an offside flag was up long before List eventually managed to get the ball beyond Walton.