Wigan Athletic 3 Chesterfield 1

Max Power
Max Power

WIGAN Athletic gave their automatic promotion hopes a massive shot in the arm by brushing aside Chesterfield - after learning the lessons of their capitulation against Sheffield United four days earlier.

Latics scored all three of their goals against a limited Spireites outfit before half-time, after a hugely impressive opening 45 minutes of attacking link-up play.

Unlike their previous home game, this time they were able to see out the game and keep up the pressure at the top of League One with three more precious points.

Max Power opened the scoring with a right-foot thunderbolt that flew into the top corner with only six minutes gone.

Reece James doubled the lead with another screamer, this time with his left foot, five minutes before half-time.

And it was game over barely a minute later as Michael Jacobs raced through and dinked the ball over the advancing Tommy Lee.

Ollie Banks pulled one back late for Chesterfield, but anything other than a home win would have been a travesty based on the overall flow of the game.

Latics are now level on points with fourth-placed Coventry, four points off the automatic promotion places, with 19 games still to play.

With just two defeats in their last 20 league games, Gary Caldwell’s men are getting stronger as the campaign goes on - an ominous sign for the teams above them.

Right from the off they were too fast, too powerful, too clever for a Chesterfield hoping to avenge Wigan’s dramatic come-from-behind win in the corresponding fixture back in September.

Indeed, Latics were ahead with their first real effort on goal, Power pulling back his trusty right boot and sending a rocket into the top corner of Lee’s net.

And the visitors’ defence showed no immediate signs of learning their lesson, allowed the ex-Tranmere man another long-range shooting opportunity moments later, which this time flicked a defender on its way behind for a corner.

At the other end, Jay O’Shea saw a shot fumbled by Jussi Jaaskelainen, who was perhaps fortunate the rebound fell not to one of the lurking attackers but to team-mate James, who cleared in a hurry.

The Spireites threatened again when Lee Novak fired wide of Jaaskelainen’s left-hand post.

And the home side were given their biggest scare yet when seasoned hitman Sylvan Ebanks-Blake led a swift counter-attack from a Wigan corner.

A superb switch of play from the ex-Manchester United junior allowed O’Shea a clear run on goal.

But Jaaskelainen was off his line in a flash to smother the ball before the forward could pull the trigger.

Latics were probing without really pressurising the Chesterfield goal at this point, Haris Vuckic unable to get his shot away on a couple of occasions from inside the box.

However, a couple of goals in quick succession effectively ended the game as a contest before the interval.

First, Donervon Daniels and new-boy Reece Wabara fed James, whose left-foot shot found the same top corner as Power had already located.

Then, almost straight from the restart, lovely interplay saw Jacobs run through before prodding over the exposed goalkeeper to make it three.

The half-time ovation from the home fans was well-deserved, but there was also an air of trepidation after the events of four days earlier.

Thankfully, those Latics fans needn’t have worried in the slightest.

While Wigan didn’t exactly put their cue back in the rack, they were clearly more concerned with protecting what they had rather than push forward for more goals.

It was the smart thing to do so soon after dropping two points from a similar position.

But inevitably it meant that, as a contest, the second period wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as the first.

After Jacobs had forced a good save from the diving Lee, Chesterfield sent on Rai Simons for Ebanks-Blake.

The new man was quickly into the game, forcing a smart low save from Jaaskelainen.

Vuckic again tried to beat his man when a shot was perhaps the better option, and the Slovenia international was replaced up top by the fresh legs of Craig Davies.

The Chesterfield old boy took up an intelligent position on the edge of the area only for Jacobs to fail to find him, as the game threatened to peter out.

Wigan’s hopes of a rare but welcome clean sheet went when Banks fired in a powerful low shot that Jaaskelainen got a strong hand to, but couldn’t prevent trickling over the line.

But that was as alarming as it got as, aided by the late introductions of Yanic Wildschut and Tim Chow, Latics successfully ran down the clock to record a fourth win in their last six matches.