Wigan Athletic 1 Swindon 0

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

FRANCISCO Junior served up a dramatic Halloween treat on a tricky afternoon for Wigan Athletic against struggling Swindon.

It was far from a thriller at the DW, with Latics below their best across the board and the visitors seemingly content from an early stage to go home with a point.

But Junior ghosted in at the death to score a goal which delivered a dagger to the hearts of the horrified Town players.

Anything less than the three points would have haunted boss Gary Caldwell, who had sent on Junior at the start of the second period to give Latics more tooth in attack.

And the on-loan Everton midfielder repaid his manager in style to send Latics up to within five points of League One leaders Walsall.

Up to that point, the home side had been hugely frustrated by their lowly opponents who hadn’t been expected to provide much of a speed-bump to Wigan’s recent resurgence.

Yanic Wildschut, Will Grigg, Michael Jacobs and Craig Davies were all thwarted by a mixture of good goalkeeping and below-par finishing.

And it looked like it was going to be one of those days when Reece James saw a late effort well saved by Lawrence Vigouroux, before blazing the rebound high over the top.

Swindon had threatened early doors with Ben Gladwin hitting a post and Anton Rodgers - who was watched from the directors’ box by father Brendan - poking just wide.

But they had what would have been a battling point stolen from their grasp with virtually the last kick when Junior took advantage of a defensive mix-up.

Games featuring Latics this season have tended to be entertaining affairs.

And this one could easily have been 2-2 with barely five minutes on the clock.

Wildschut saw a left-foot shot fizz across goal, before a scramble in the box led to Donald Love temporarily having a clear sight of goal, which disappeared before he could pull the trigger.

At the other end, Rodgers found himself in acres of space inside the Latics box, but he couldn’t move his feet fast enough and eventually fired well wide of the mark.

Then Gladwin failed to release Nicky Ajose, who would have a clear run on goal, electing to take an extra touch which saw his team-mate run offside.

When the ball eventually arrived at the feet of Ajose, he intelligently returned it straight to Gladwin, who controlled well before firing against the outside of the post.

Wildschut attempted another couple of shots which didn’t really trouble a goalkeeper who was taking an increasingly annoying amount of time in taking goal-kicks.

On one occasion, the entire crowd seemed to be drawing attention to his time-wasting, thoroughly enjoying the sight of him ending up on his backside when he slipped as he eventually put boot to ball.

Wildschut played a lovely one-two with Jacobs, whose cross to the far post deserved someone to have been on the end of it.

The same combination in reverse then led to Wildschut prodding goalwards but straight at Vigouroux.

Latics almost made the perfect start to the second half, when a clever Jacobs corner found Grigg, whose first-time shot was cleared off line by Jordan Turnbull.

The striker wasn’t quite so accurate with his next chance, which he blasted way over the top from the edge of the area.

A determined run by Jacobs saw the ex-Wolves man have a shot that deflected wide for a corner, his final involvement before he and Wildschut gave way to Don Cowie and Davies.

Heartened at still being on level terms despite being on the back foot for the majority, Swindon started to look increasingly dangerous on the break as they searched for an unlikely victory.

One counter led by Gladwin forced Junior to take one for the team in the form of a yellow, with the free-kick coming to nothing.

Latics looked as though they’d blown their last chance when James twice couldn’t find the net from inside the area after good work from opposite wing-back Love.

There was further agony when Davies wriggled free down the left channel only to drill the ball just wide of the far post - and inches in front of the onrushing Chris McCann.

The referee finally got sick of Vigouroux’s time-wasting in the third added minute, to ironic cheers from the home fans.

And those supporters were cheering again - this time in jubilation - a couple of minutes later when Vigouroux failed to get his hands on the ball which allowed Junior to notch a timely first goal for the club.

Latics: Jaaskelainen 6; Daniels 7, Morgan 7, McCann 7; Love 8, Power 6, Perkins 8, James 7; Jacobs 6, Wildschut 7; Grigg 6.

Subs: O’Donnell, Barnett, Chow, Junior (for Power, 53), Cowie (for Wildschut, 69), Vuckic, Davies (for Jacobs, 69).

Swindon: Vigouroux; Barry, Rossi-Branco, El-Abd, Turnbull; Kasim, Rodgers, Ojamaa, Brophy; Gladwin, Ajose.

Subs: Belford, Ormonde-Ottewill, Robert (for Brophy, 70), Thompson (for Rodgers, 60), Balmy, Obika (for Ajose, 60), Hylton.