Leam Richardson hailed Michael Jacobs after the stand-in skipper’s early goal gave Wigan Athletic a crucial victory over Rochdale.
Jacobs, one of seven changes to the side that beat Manchester City in the FA Cup five days earlier, put Latics in front with a wonderful left-foot strike inside 12 minutes.
And it proved to be the only goal of a tight, nervy triumph, which sees Latics remain three points behind leaders Blackburn, and two behind second-placed Shrewsbury - with three games in hand.
“It was a great strike, and it’s so pleasing because Michael’s been champing at the bit, desperate to get himself going again, like he was at the start of the season,” enthused Richardson.
“He was excellent overall and I’m sure he’ll take plenty of confidence from that.”
With Sam Morsy completing a two-match suspension, Jacobs was surprisingly handed the armband despite club captain Dan Burn being in the side.
“Myself and the gaffer like to give the lads some extra responsibility now and again,” explained Richardson.
“For the likes of Michael to take that, as you saw today, is fantastic.
“I thought he was our best player on the day, and for him to respond to that responsibility is pleasing.
“I thought his work ethic was very good, he’s played in two or three different positions, and he led the team by example.”
Having made seven changes to the side that saw off Pep Guardiola’s City, Latics appeared a little disjointed in their play, with Richardson just pleased to get the points in the bag.
“We had a few injuries, a bit of fatigue, and we wanted to bring in a bit of freshness,” he added.
“Some of the relationships out there worked, some of them didn’t, and you could tell we’d made changes.
“Obviously the main positive out of the day was the three points.
“Certainly after Monday, and the massive high, we set up to not get beat and just win the game.
“We expected a very tough game from Rochdale, and they certainly gave us one.
“They’re scrapping for their lives, young loads playing with no fear, but credit to our lads for grinding it out.
“These are big wins, big points, at this time of year.
“It’s important you keep your structure about you, and stay focused on everything you’re doing.”