Wigan Athletic 2 Walsall 0
Will Grigg is back on fire...and League One defences should be terrified!
The Northern Ireland international plundered both goals in Wigan Athletic’s 2-0 win over Walsall that was far more emphatic than the scoreline would suggest.
Grigg’s second and third goals of the season gave Latics their eighth victory from their first 11 matches, to stay four points behind leaders Shrewsbury.
The first, on the half-hour mark, was a clinical finish from close range after Nick Powell collided with Saddlers goalkeeper Mark Gillespie while competing for Callum Elder’s cross.
Grigg doubled the lead nine minutes after the restart from the penalty spot, after he was fouled in the act of shooting by Walsall’s James Wilson.
Powell, who was also excellent throughout, almost made it 3-0 in the final quarter, only to see his shot hacked off the line by a desperate defender.
At the other end, Jamie Jones may as well have taken a deckchair out with him, such was his involvement in the game.
The 90 minutes were almost up when he made the only notable contribution of his 300th career appearance - a fine diving save to deny Amadou Bakayoko a consolation goal that Walsall hardly deserved.
It was Jones’ fifth clean sheet in the last six matches, which underlines how well Latics have started life under Paul Cook.
Having made only one change - Elder coming in for Reece James at left-back - Cook watched his men tear into the Saddlers from the off.
They created two big chances in the space of 10 seconds, with Grigg having a shot saved before the ball was played back in for Powell to volley horribly wide from eight yards.
Cook had moaned in the build-up to the game about how frequently skipper Sam Morsy was being booked for his first tackle of the game.
And his thoughts at Morsy duly being booked for his first tackle of the game by referee David Coote were there for all to see.
Michael Jacobs headed wide from Gavin Massey’s cross, before Latics hearts were in mouths when Morsy was penalised for another foul, which led to at least one Walsall player gesticulating to the official for a red card, which understandably didn’t impress the Egypt international.
Thankfully Mr Coote kept his cards in his pocket, and Latics recovered to take the lead on the half-hour.
After Massey had failed to find an unmarked Grigg in the centre with a cross from the right, the striker did find the ball his his feet from Elder’s delivery from the other flank.
And he lashed the ball home with his left foot, before celebrating in front of the Walsall fans who’d not been shy in dishing out stick to the former Saddlers man.
Grigg was almost in again just before the interval, with Massey again failing to find him from a good position.
But the respite was only temporary, with the striker doubling the lead within nine minutes of the restart.
Powell it was who released Grigg with a sublime through ball from halfway, and he was in the act of pulling the trigger before being upended by Wilson from behind for a stonewall penalty.
Grigg picked up the ball before regular-taker Powell could react, and exacted his own revenge by blasting the ball home past a helpless goalkeeper.
The last half-hour would have looked a daunting prospect for a Walsall side who’d barely had a kick up to this point.
But a rare mistake at the back from Latics allowed Erhun Oztumer a shooting chance, only to send it wide of the far post.
Max Power took over in the engine from from Lee Evans, joining David Perkins, who’d replaced Jacobs at the interval.
And it was from a Perkins corner that Latics almost added number three, only for Powell’s shot to hit a defender on the line and divert to safety.
Morsy was the next to see the whites of the Walsall goalkeeper’s eyes, taking a lovely ball from Massey, only to be thwarted by the last line of defence.
That was the cue for Powell to receive his now-customary round of applause following his late substitution, with Gary Roberts taking over for the last 12 minutes.
To their credit, Walsall finished strongly and, after Dan Agyei fired across goal - which brought ironic cheers from the away fans behind the goal - Bakayoko at least forced Jones into a save with a powerful header.