Wigan Athletic 3 Wolves 2

Ali Al Habsi celebrates with the fans - Wigan v Wolves
Ali Al Habsi celebrates with the fans - Wigan v Wolves

A BRILLIANT brace from Emmerson Boyce ensured Latics ended the season on a high with a third win on the bounce.

Latics had secured their top-flight status last weekend with victory at Blackburn, and they wrapped up 15th spot in the table with a fine display in front of a bumper DW crowd.

Boyce took the headlines at the double, the first with a bullet header and the second with a quite magnificent voley into the top corner.

Franco di Santo had earlier equalised for Latics after Matt Jarvis had given Wolves a shock early lead.

But Wigan had to hang on for the win when substitute Steven Fletcher made it 3-2 in the closing stages.

Hugo Rodallega was denied the opportunity to sign off in style when he hit the post in stoppage time, but Latics finished the season with a bang that means they can hopefully hit the ground running next term.

Roberto Martinez had made one alteration to the side that secured safety at Blackburn in the week, Adrian Lopez for Antolin Alcaraz at the heart of the defence.

That wasn’t the only change, though, with Latics giving their new 2012-13 kit its first airing in public.

There was a real celebratory feel to proceedings, which was only increased when three-quarters of the stadium stood up to applaud on the eight-minute mark to denote an eighth season of top-flight football on its way.

The mood was slightly dampened when Wolves winger Jarvis cut in from the left and curled an unstoppable right-foot shot past Ali Al Habsi for the opening goal while the fans applauded.

But normal service was resumed within two minutes when Di Santo sent a scuffed shot past Dorus de Vries and into the bottom corner.

And Latics were ahead in their next attack when Jean Beausejour’s corner was headed home empahtically by Boyce for his second goal in the last four matches.

Three goals inside the opening 14 minutes could partly be explained by the fact neither side had much to play for.

But any suggestions there was nothing at stake were dispelled when Richard Stearman absolutely clattered Shaun Maloney midway inside the Wolves half that brought about the game’s first yellow card.

Wolves came close again when Stephen Hunt was taken out but referee Michael Oliver allowed a great advantage for Kevin Doyle, whose shot was blocked by Gary Caldwell on the edge of his own box.

But Latics were looking dangerous each time they went forward, and it was nearly 3-1 when James McArthur pulled a shot into the path of Victor Moses, whose shot was deflected just over the bar.

Lopez would have been looking to make an impression on an extremely rare appearance, and he produced a crunching challenge to stop a marauding run from Stearman from the back.

The Spaniard was at it again inside the opening moments of the second period, stopping Sylvan Ebanks-Blake dead in his tracks much to the Wolves striker’s frustration.

Wolves made a change within five minutes of the restart, third-choice goalkeeper Carl Ikeme replacing stand-in De Vries, who looked to have picked up some kind of wrist injury.

But the new-boy would have been helpless had Di Santo made proper connection to Beausejour’s left-wing cross instead of missing his kick.

Albert Crusat came on for the last half-hour, taking over from Moses, but Wolves came close to an equaliser when Jarvis crossed for Ebank-Blake to head on to the roof of the net.

Christophe Berra became the second Wolves player to have his name taken for a foul on Di Santo, before Crusat almost got on the end of an inviting cross from Beausejour.

Wolves were coming to the end of their Premier League stay, but they seemed determined to go out with a bang.

And only a fine block by Al Habsi denied Stephen Ward sneaking in at the far post to level the scores.

Latics nearly made the game safe when Crusat bided his time before playing in Maloney, whose shot forced Ikeme into his first save on his Premier League debut.

The fans in the South Stand were then cheering with 72 minutes on the clock, only to discover Crusat’s near-post shot had found the side-netting and not the back of the net.

Fletcher replaced Ebanks-Blake for Wolves, before Di Santo gave way to Rodallega for an emotional final appearance in a Latics shirt.

And the Colombian set up Wigan’s third goal with his very first touch.

He couldn’t really do much with a lump forward from the back, but he at least succeeded in cushioning it into the path of Boyce, 30 yards from goal.

And the DW Stadium crowd rubbed its collective eyes as the wing-back unleashed a magnificent volley that bent past Ikeme and into the top corner for his second of the afternoon.

Martinez made his third change with eight minutes remaining, and it wasn’t Diame but Jordi Gomez who replaced Maloney.

Boyce then manfully gave up the chance of a hat-trick when, with the goal at his mercy, he tried to slide in Rodallega and the defence was able to clear.

Wolves ensured a nervy climax when Fletcher slid home from 10 yards with Al Habsi out of his goal.

But there was still time for Rodallega to be denied by a lick of paint when he toed the ball past Ikeme - only to see it hit the woodwork and stay out.

Latics: Al Habsi 7; Lopez 8, Caldwell 7, Figueroa 7; Boyce 9, McCarthy 8, McArthur 8, Beausejour 8; Maloney 8, Moses 7; Di Santo 7.

Subs: Pollitt, Crusat (for Moses, 58), Diame, Watson, Gomez (for Maloney, 82), Sammon, Rodallega (for Di Santo, 78).

Wolves: De Vries; Zubar, Stearman, Berra, Ward; Hunt, Edwards, Henry, Jarvis; Doyle, Ebanks-Blake.

Subs: Ikeme (for De Vries, 51), Elokobi, Fletcher (for Ebanks-Blake, 75), Johnson, Milijas, Jonsson, Forde.

Referee: Michael Oliver