Wigan Athletic 3 Blackburn Rovers 1

Gary Roberts celebrates scoring the opening goal
Gary Roberts celebrates scoring the opening goal

Wounded Wigan Athletic returned to winning ways in style with a thumping 3-1 victory over Blackburn that flattered Rovers hugely.

Again missing several frontline stars, Latics lost Nick Powell to a recurrence of his hamstring injury inside the opening quarter.

But replacement Josh Windass produced arguably his best game for Latics, working wonderfully in tandem up front with James Vaughan.

The evergreen Gary Roberts scored the opening goal on 37 minutes, with Vaughan adding number two from the penalty spot nine minutes after the restart after Windass had been tripped inside the box.

Latics also hit the woodwork FOUR times though Dan Burn, Windass (twice) and Reece James in a dazzling display of attacking football.

And it looked as though there may be a catastrophic sting in the tale when Burn unfortunately put through his own net with seven minutes remaining, with Christian Walton helpless.

But Latics remained on the front foot and Callum McManaman made it safe in the dying seconds with a cool finish after great work from Windass.

The win sees Latics move back up to 15th in the Championship table - seven points off the play-offs and the same amount clear of the drop zone.

Given the season-long battle between Latics and Rovers for the League it was no surprise to see a bit of needle in the opening skirmishes, with three yellow cards handed out in the first 15 minutes.

When the football broke out, a beautiful dummy from Nathan Byrne allowed him to escape his marker down the right, and his cross was only inches in front of an unmarked Powell.

Sadly, that was Powell’s last involvement, with a recurrence of the hamstring problem that caused his premature substitution against Reading last weekend.

Windass was on with only 21 minutes gone, with Sam Morsy and Bradley Dack taking the opportunity of the break in play to engage in a bout of handbags that saw them having to be dragged apart.

Blackburn threatened a four-on-three break but Corry Evans didn’t work it well enough and Cedric Kipre was able to get across to deny Adam Armstrong,

At the other end, Latics somehow failed to score three times in an amazing 15 seconds of action.

First Vaughan saw a header cleared off the line, before Burn smashed the rebound against the bar.

The ball flew out to Kal Naismith on the left, and his cross was somehow nodded inches wide of the far post by Kipre.

But Latics were knocking on the door, and took the lead eight minutes before the break.

Roberts was given too much time and space 30 yards from goal, and the veteran forward swung his trusty left foot and sent it arrowing past David Raya and in off the left-hand upright.

How it didn’t come is anyone’s guess, with Windass inexplicably clearing a Vaughan flick off the Rovers line, before flicking another effort from Naismith’s pinpoint delivery against the woodwork.

Latics picked up where they’d left off at the beginning of the second period, with Windass finding Vaughan, whose shot was well saved by Raya.

A rare sight of goal for Blackburn saw Armstrong warm Walton’s hands with a left-foot strike, before Latics did double their lead on 54 minutes.

Windass was tripped by the last man as he shaped to shoot, and Vaughan seized the ball before smashing it into the roof of the Rovers net.

It was all Latics by this point and Burn headed wide from Naismith’s cross and Lee Evans forced a decent save from Raya from distance.

Windass became the third Wigan player to hit the woodwork when his deflected shot looped over the goalkeeper only to hit the bar and away.

And right-back James did likewise moments later when his free-kick from the right drifted over everyone only to land on the upright.

Latics sent on McManaman and Callum Connolly for Roberts and Vaughan, who both rightly received standing ovations for their shifts.

But before the new men could touch the ball, Rovers somehow pulled one back when Latics couldn’t clear a set-piece and Burn sent the ball rolling agonisingly past his own goalkeeper.

It would have been a real footballing injustice had Latics picked up anything less than all three points after such a magnificent display.

And they managed to restore their two-goal advantage in the dying seconds when Windass beat his man down the right, and sent over a teasing cross that McManaman slotted home at the far post.