Wigan Athletic crowned Final Third Development League West Division champions.Luke Ainscough's header seals the Final Third Development League West title for Wigan Athletic with one game to go after their 1-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers.
WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
TRANMERE ROVERS 0
TRANMERE ROVERS 0
Luke Ainscough's back post header in first half injury time was enough to seal the Final Third Development League West title as Latics held out for a 1-0 victory at Robin Park Arena in a game which could have seen them add plenty more.
The only goal of the game came after a flurry of first half opportunities with Ainscough one of many going close, but his header from Joey Johnson's cross was the one that counted, a rare goal from the central midfielder.
Latics claimed their ninth league victory of the season, putting them on 28 points with one game remaining, away to Morecambe next Monday.
It was a team with a sprinkling of Under 18 players, as full backs Danny Leigh and Liam Lambert joined Mayowa Balogun in defence, with Sam Cosgrove and Matthew Hamilton used as second half substitutes.
After just nine minutes Latics set the tone for the afternoon when Michael Wilson's free header from a superb Lambert delivery was saved by Jason Mooney, either side of the keeper and it would have been a goal.
A three pronged attack of Guillermo Andres, Ryan Jennings and Joey Johnson continued to test Tranmere's resolve, with all three seeing attempts saved or go wide.
Just before the half an hour mark Jennings carved out the best opening of the game when his delicately clipped pass was touched down by Ainscough on his thigh and volleyed narrowly wide of the left post from 10 yards.
With the shot count rising and penalty claims for fouls on Andres also increasing in number, Latics grabbed themselves the lead in first half injury time, but not after Andres was wiped out by Tranmere keeper Mooney in a one-on-one.
Jennings made a lung-bursting run down the middle after Andres' interception near the half way line, with the pacey winger evading two challenges before poking to ball into Johnson's path down the right side.
Whether shot or cross from Johnson, it was effective enough to find Ainscough at the back post and with a towering header over former Latics full back Callum Morris he gave Latics a deserved lead.
The second half had less bit about it and certainly less clear-cut chances, but Tranmere improved to give Peter Atherton's side stern test as they were made to work hard to hold on to their slim lead.
Latics' young defence were solid and composed, dealing with the physical threat of experienced striker Akpo Sodje with relative ease.
Ainscough, Tim Chow and Ryan Meadows continued to win the midfield battle and the front three forced Tranmere back, with Jennings seemingly struck in the face down the left side of the penalty area, but still the referee said no.
Tranmere's improvement wasn't enough to force an equaliser, but Marko Marosi was much more involved between the sticks for Latics in comparison to the first half, making a fine save low to his left from Ben Maher.
A solid performance and a fine way to ensure their title win after a season glittered with goals, Latics remained strong and firm with a very professional display.
Latics: Marosi, Leigh, Lambert, Balogun, Wilson, Meadows, Jennings (Phillips 73), Ainscough, Andres (Hamilton 69), Chow, Johnson (Cosgrove 88)
Unused Subs: Poole, Purzycki
Tranmere: Mooney, Morris, Brown, Kirby (Gumbs 49), Boland, Holmes, Riley (Newton 60), Rowe, Stockton, Sodje, Jago (Maher 60)
Unused Subs: Ramsbottom, Shakleton