REPORT: SHEFF WED 0 LATICS 3
Nicky Maynard was twice the hero as Latics responded to manager Uwe Rosler’s call for more goals in emphatic style at Hillsborough, sweeping aside a resurgent Sheffield Wednesday in the clubs’ first ever league meeting – and edging Latics closer to the play-off positions.
Substitute Marc Antoine Fortune added the cherry on the cake by blasting in a third in second half injury time, to finish all the good work that had started when the original fixture was called off in December with Latics leading and looking comfortable.
Maynard struck twice in seven first half minutes to cap off a great first half display with two real poacher’s goals, providing that extra ingredient in the final third that the team’s excellent build up play in recent weeks has so often threatened to deliver.
There were moments in the second half when Wednesday, who came into the contest as one of the form sides of the division, piled on the pressure, especially in the eight minutes of additional time added on following a serious-looking injury to centre half Jose Semedo. But Latics held on brilliantly to record Uwe Rosler’s best away victory so far as Latics manager.
Rosler had freshened up the frontline with Maynard returning to the starting line up to spearhead the attack, James McClean also coming in on the left side and only newcomer Waghorn retaining his place from Saturday’s defeat at Huddersfield.
With Chris McCann also restored to Latics’ midfield, Latics dominated from the off, with Ben Watson allowed the space to express himself with some devastating passing. His ability to switch play quickly and spray the ball out to the flanks stretched Wednesday, without finding the killer touch.
That came when the impressive Waghorn’s clever reverse pass just outside the box released Maynard and he rifled hard and low from an angle past Chris Kirkland – the first time he’s faced his old club.
Better was to come seven minutes later when Ben Watson forced a cheap corner off his old team mate Kirkland who stepped behind the goal line when collecting a long free-kick.
Waghorn’s set piece delivery has been a real feature since his arrival and Maynard brushed in his superb, curling daisy cutter at the near post with the faintest of touches to beat Kirkland again.
The only blemish for Latics before the break came after a couple of errors allowed Atdhe Nuhiu and Benik Afobe to shoot, Ali Al Habsi saving well on both occasions.
Latics had to withstand spells of pressure in the second half, substitute Jeremy Helan almost making an instant impact but Al Habsi palmed away his goal-bound effort, and was on hand again when Chris Maguire blasted from 25 yards. Leon Barnett and Emmerson Boyce were majestic in withstanding a succession of crosses into the box as Wednesday went direct. Al Habsi tipped Helan’s late effort over the bar to deny Wednesday even one consolation goal.
Latics had their moments too in the second half. Watson failed to connect with Fortune’s drilled cross from the left and there were long range efforts from Maynard, Fortune and James McArthur.
But just as Wednesday threw everything forwards in injury time, Maynard crowned a brilliant night for both himself and the team with a mazy run that saw Kirkland only able to parry his effort into the path of Fortune, who fired in for his 4th of the season.