Chesterfield 2 Wigan Athletic 3

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

AN incredible comeback in the last 10 minutes saw Wigan Athletic drag themselves back from two goals down to win 3-2 at Chesterfield.

Latics had been the masters of the five-goal turnarounds during their Premier League years, having come back off the canvas to see off both Arsenal and West Ham in memorable encounters.

And this clash at the Proact Stadium was every bit as exciting, enthralling, entertaining - and, to be honest, downright unlikely at one point - with Gary Caldwell’s men seemingly dead and buried only to find something deep within to take the spoils.

Despite edging an open first period, Latics had found themselves behind on the hour mark when Dan Gardner curled a beauty into the top corner past Rich O’Donnell.

And it looked curtains for the visitors when Leon Barnett inexplicably headed past his own goalkeeper midway through the second period.

Barnett, ironically, made partial amends by volleying home - this time at the right end - from a Latics corner with 10 minutes remaining.

It looked like Wigan’s chance had come and gone when substitute Jordy Hiwula somehow volleyed against the bar from inside the six-yard box five minutes from time with no goalkeeper to beat.

But Latics weren’t to be denied and, seconds later, fellow replacement Chris McCann was felled in the penalty area and Craig Davies stepped up to smash home the spot-kick.

All the momentum was with Latics at this point, with the home side now trying to hang on to a solitary point.

And there was to be one final sting in this increasingly far-fetched tale.

After Michael Jacobs and Davies had been denied by the brilliance of goalkeeper Tommy Lee, Hiwula eventually slotted home to the delight of the 1,000 travelling supporters behind the goal.

All three goals were scored in front of a delirious away end, and the scenes at the end of complete and utter jubilation - involving fans and players - underlined what a seminal afternoon this could prove to be in the grand scheme of things.

In fact, the visitors needn’t have had to rely on the late drama, having started the brighter and squandered numerous chances to take a decisive lead.

However, they were indebted to O’Donnell for not falling behind to the first chance of the game on 12 minutes, when the big goalkeeper thrust out a solid right hand to keep out Ian Evatt’s powerful header off Gardner’s inswinging free-kick.

When the goalkeeper needed a bit of luck, he got it when team-mate Barnett somehow got in the way of Liam O’Neil’s attempts to ram home the rebound.

The home side then had a massive shout for a penalty when Dan Jones appeared to have his shirt tugged by Daniels as he entered the area.

However, the referee decided the contact inside the box was not enough to warrant action, although he did give a free-kick just outside for the first indiscretion.

Thankfully, Latics were able to clear the danger, and the visitors then showed themselves as an attacking force for the first time with Haris Vuckic - making his debut - looking particularly lively.

The Slovenia international blasted high and wide with his first sight of goal, before strike partner Davies forced a good save out of the goalkeeper.

Latics came closer still six minutes before the break when a Davies free-kick deflected off the wall towards Daniels, whose left-foot effort flew inches wide.

And they wasted a gilt-edged opportunity right on the stroke of half-time when lovely play from Vuckic and Davies worked Jacobs into a one-on-one duel with the goalkeeper.

However, the ex-Wolves man elected to try and place the ball home rather than go for power, and Lee pulled off a superb save at point-blank range.

The miss very nearly came back to haunt Latics within a minute as Chesterfield went right up the other end and Lee Novak fired inches wide from a good position.

Novak was involved in another massive let-off for Latics within seconds of the restart, when he got in the way of a goalbound strike from Evatt, taking an almighty blow flush in the face.

Gardner saw another shot blocked before Latics made a double change to try to stem the flow, with McCann and Hiwula taking over from Vuckic and Daniels.

Davies had another decent chance on the hour mark only to blaze over from eight yards - and this time Latics did pay a high price for their profligacy.

There seemed little danger when Gardner picked up the ball on the left-hand side and cut in.

But the midfielder unleashed a tremendous curling effort that arrowed right into the top corner beyond the outstretched fingertips of O’Donnell.

Before Latics could regroup, they were two goals down.

This time Jones created the danger from the right, with Barnett sending a clinical header into the corner of his own net past a bemused O’Donnell.

With Chesterfield pushing for a third, it looked as though Wigan’s away-day misery would continue for a third game in a row, following 2-0 defeats at Coventry and Gillingham respectively.

But Wigan’s third substitution with 10 minutes to go - Andy Kellett for Sean Murray - helped to turn the game on its head.

Having switched from their 3-5-2 formation to 4-4-2, the visitors totally dominated the closing stages with the home side hardly able to get a touch on the ball.

Davies saw another shot well saved before Barnett did reduce the arrears with a cracking finish after the Spireites couldn’t clear Jacobs’ corner.

The home side dodged a bullet five minutes from time when, after Lee pulled off a fabulous double save to deny Jacobs and Davies, Hiwula somehow volleyed against the bar with the whole of an unguarded goal to aim at.

But Latics had the bit between their teeth at this point, and McCann’s marauding run into the box was only ended when he was clearly tripped for a stonewall penalty.

Davies made no mistake to mark his first return to Chesterfield since leaving five years ago in trademark fashion.

And with seconds to go, Hiwula earned redemption for his glaring miss with a deadly finish from close range to put the icing on an incredibly tasty cake for Wigan Athletic - and add another glorious chapter to the ‘I was there’ storybook.

Chesterfield: Lee; O’Neil, Hird, Evatt, Jones; Ariyibi, Banks, O’Shea, Morsy, Gardner; Novak.

Subs: Cairns, Raglan (for O’Neil, 43), Gnandduillet (for, Novak, 58), Harrison, Donohue, Humphreys, Dieseruvwe.

Latics: O’Donnell 8; Daniels 7, Barnett 7, Pearce 7; Power 7, Murray 6, Perkins 7, James 6; Jacobs 6, Vuckic 6; Davies 7.

Subs: Jaaskelainen, Kellett (for Murray, 79), McCann (for Daniels, 60) 7, Chow, Flores, Odelusi, Hiwula (for Vuckic, 60) 7.