REPORT: WIGAN ATHLETIC 2 WATFORD 1
Martyn Waghorn’s second-half winner extended Latics’ unbeaten run to ten games in all competitions as Watford were downed 2-1 at the DW Stadium in the SkyBet Championship.
Waghorn notched just before the hour mark after Jean Beausejour cancelled out Lewis McGugan’s opener for the visitors.
Uwe Rosler’s side stay fifth in the table but, more importantly, opened up a five point gap on the teams below them in the race for the play-off places.
Rosler made four changes to the side that drew 3-3 with Yeovil on Tuesday as Rob Kiernan was handed his first Latics start alongside the returning trio of Waghorn, James McClean and Marc-Antoine Fortune.
The visitors made one change from their 3-0 win over Barnsley last weekend with Essaid Belkalem replacing Lloyd Doyley.
Latics were once again right at it from the off against a Watford side that had scored more goals in the opening 15 minutes of games than any other side in the Championship and Beausejour had a wonderful opportunity to open the scoring on eight minutes, latching onto Jordi Gomez’s dinked pass before being denied by Manuel Almunia in the Hornets goal with the Spaniard spreading himself well to deny the Chilean’s strike on the angle from ten yards.
Beausejour, like on Tuesday evening, was energetic from the off and he caused Almunia problems with a deep cross that had the former Arsenal stopper had to tip behind.
From the resulting corner Ivan Ramis looked like he had given Latics a 13th minute lead, though his bullet header was blocked on the line by Hornets striker Troy Deeney with the frontman in the right place at the right time.
Waghorn tested Almunia with a 25-yard drive minutes later before Ikechi Anya curled wide from 12 yards for Watford after Daniel Tozser played the Scottish international in behind.
The visitors settled into the game following a difficult opening period and McGugan fired wide from 25 yards at the Hornets began to see more of the ball.
McClean was the next player to go close for Latics as he met Waghorn’s pass in behind the Watford backline before driving at goal and firing straight at Almunia.
Republic of Ireland international McClean switched over to the right-hand side on multiple occasions in thefirst half and, after he skinned Angella, his cut-back was blocked by Belkalem as Waghorn looked destined to fire home.
McClean was involved again minutes later as Latics continued to bombard the Hornets goal with the 24-year-old again beating his man before firing into the side-netting.
However, despite a large spell of dominance for Latics, it was the visitors who went ahead as McGugan picked the ball up 25 yards from goal before firing into Ali Al Habsi’s right-hand corner from the angle of the box.
Latics, as so often has been the case this season, bounced back immediately as Ramis picked out Beausejour with an outstanding 50-yard pass which the Chilean brought down elegantly before firing straight at Almunia who parried the rebound back into the winger’s path to head home.
The opening ten minutes of the second-half saw Latics endure frustration with their final pass, though they were ahead on 56 minutes as Waghorn bagged his third goal since joining on loan from Leicester City in January.
The former Sunderland man controlled James McArthur’s low drive 12 yards from goal before quickly curling into Almunia’s bottom left-hand corner.
Jack Collison was introduced for his Latics debut just after the hour mark, replacing Waghorn who will no doubt have a part to play against QPR and Bolton in the next week.
Gomez, who was making his 150th Latics appearance, then fired narrowly over from 25 yards as Rosler’s side searched for a third.
Beausejour volleyed just wide from Nick Powell’s flick-on as Latics continued to push for another goal.
Watford were always dangerous on the break, though, and, after James Perch recovered well to challenge Pudil, the ball fell to Anya who fired wide from 25 yards.
Anya was the danger throughout for the Hornets and his saw him go one-on-one with Al Habsi five minutes from time only to fire wide of the Oman international’s right-hand post.
Fortune fired a late effort wide for Latics before McArthur sent a glorious opportunity for a third wide of Almunia’s right-hand post from 22 yards.