Wigan Athletic secure Championship safety with 2-0 win over Preston North End

Wigan Athletic will be playing in the Championship next season
Wigan Athletic will be playing in the Championship next season

Wigan Athletic secured their Championship status with two games to spare with a convincing 2-0 victory over local rivals Preston.

With Rotherham losing 3-1 at home to Birmingham, Latics are now eight points clear of the drop zone.

And they can figuratively put the cue back in the rack ahead of Saturday's trip to Birmingham and the season-ending visit of Millwall on Sunday week.

On-loan Sheffield United hitman Leon Clarke set them off with the opening goal on 11 minutes, after Kal Naismith unselfishly gave him a tap-in from a yard.

Preston's cause wasn't helped when Ryan Ledson was given a straight red card on 34 minutes, for an horrendous challenge that almost separated Naismith's head from the rest of his body.

And Latics secured the win midway through the second period when Lee Evans fired home from 12 yards - his first goal of the season.

Paul Cook's men stepped up to the plate when it mattered, securing an impressive seven points in the space of eight days against high-flying Preston, Leeds and Norwich.

And it means Latics can enjoy the last two games of the campaign with nothing riding on them - for the first time in years.

Danny Fox for the suspended Cedric Kipre was the only change from the side that won at Leeds, and the centre-back was quickly into the action to block Callum Robinson's snapshot.

And Latics made the most of their first real attack by taking the lead through Clarke, who had it gift-wrapped by Naismith following a mistake in the Preston defence.

Lukas Nmecha was booked for diving as North End attempted a response, but Latics were playing some decent stuff on the back of the early goal.
From a Reece James corner, Chey Dunkley had a header cleared by Ben Davies, before Gavin Massey almost got in through the middle, but the ball just wouldn't roll for him.
A Nathan Byrne cross was headed wide by Kal Naismith, who was then fortunate to escape serious injury when Ledson flew in with studs at head-height - and was rightly red-carded by referee Andy Madley.
Despite being a man light, Preston upped their game and Robinson might have levelled only to take a complete air shot in front of goal.

Latics did likewise within seconds of the restart, when Clarke saw a shot well saved by Declan Rudd.

The rebound fell to Sam Morsy who, instead of putting his foot through the ball, flicked it sideways to Naismith, who also turned down the chance to shoot, only to be crowded out.

Preston almost made Latics pay when, from a Paul Gallagher corner, Ben Davies nodded goalwards only for Clarke to head off the line.

Gary Roberts replaced Naismith for Latics, who then doubled their lead thanks to a fizzing strike from Welsh international Evans.

It was almost 3-0 shortly after when Evans found Clarke at the far post, but the shot ended up in the side-netting.

Clarke also fired wide after good work from Antonee Robinson, with Joe Garner taking over up top for the last few minutes against his former club.