Wigan Athletic 1 Oxford United 0

An 87th-minute goal from substitute Will Grigg gave Wigan Athletic a vital victory over Oxford that sends them three points clear at the top of League One - and eight ahead of third-placed Shrewsbury - with only four games to go.

Wednesday, 18th April 2018, 1:03 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th April 2018, 1:06 am
Will Grigg slots home what could prove to be a vital winner against Oxford

It had looked for long periods like the game would be peter out into a goalless draw, Wigan’s second in the space of four days after being held by Rotherham on Saturday.

But after making three attacking substitutions in the second half, Paul Cook’s side were rewarded with only three minutes remaining.

Devante Cole, having only just come on to the field, sprung the offside trap with his blistering pace.

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And despite the huge temptation to try and break his duck for the club, he instead played a clever sideways ball to the unmarked Grigg, who couldn’t miss from eight yards.

With news filtering through of Shrewsbury crashing at home to Charlton, for whom ex-Latics captain Jason Pearce netted, it means Latics can now secure promotion as early as this weekend at Fleetwood - if the Shrews fail to beat Bury.

The scenes of excitement at the end were in stark contrast to the opening of the contest, with nothing of note happening during a painful first quarter.

It took a good 20 minutes for the first moment of real interest at either end, with a Gary Roberts free-kick being half-cleared to Max Power.

Just over 30 yards out, the makeshift right-back took on the first-time shot only to aim it straight at goalkeeper Simon Eastwood, who fumbled it before quickly regathering.

Power, getting forward at every opportunity, then lined up a free-kick from similar distance, which was blocked by the wall, as was the rebound.

Latics then came within inches of taking the lead after a wonderful disguised pass from Roberts played in Jacobs.

The forward didn’t even have to break strike before lashing goalwards, only to see the ball beat Eastwood before hitting the underside of the bar and bouncing clear.

Eastwood was required moments later to tip away, at full stretch, a lovely inswinging free-kick from Power that was arrowing towards the top corner.

Latics came closer still eight minutes before the break when James Vaughan appeared to get the last touch to a goalmouth scrambled, before an Oxford leg hacked the ball off the line.

Oxford’s first effort on goal came just before the interval, when Canice Carroll tried his luck on the volley from 30 yards, which only just missed the far post with Christian Walton at full stretch.

Power sent another free-kick inches over, and the visitors would have been the more relived to hear the half-time whistle.

The visitors then proceeded to rile the home supporters - and players - with their antics just before the start of the second half.

Having made the Wigan side wait a good few minutes to kick-off, the Oxford side then proceeded to get stuck into some shuttle runs on the near touchline - much to the annoyance of referee Trevor Kettle who, boiling mad, shrilled his whistle.

Latics skipper Sam Morsy took that as a cue to get the second half under way, and indeed he was closing in on the Oxford box - and an open goal - before the official’s whistle stopped him in his tracks.

If that provided the Latics side with extra incentive to break through, it didn’t become immediately apparent on the field.

As the hour mark approached, a deep cross from Power was misjudged by the last defender, which prompted a massive shout for handball, but only a corner was given.

Latics continued to press without much in the way of a cutting edge, which led to Grigg, Gavin Massey and eventually Cole taking over from Ryan Colclough, Jay Fulton and Vaughan.

Cole had been given only eight minutes to impress, but needed just five of those to lay on what could prove to be one of the most important goals of the season.

After his pace saw him break free of the Oxford backline, he unselfishly laid the ball square for Grigg to tap home.

And he almost capped his exciting cameo with a goal of his own when, deep into stoppage time, we weaved past two defenders, only for the goalkeeper to parry his shot, which rolled goalwards only to kiss the post on the way behind.