Latics keep title hopes alive with impressive 3-1 win.
- Latics beat Preston 3-1 to close the gap on leaders Bury.
- Robles, Lang and Cosgrove on target at Christopher Park.
- Latics win Youth Alliance if they avoid defeat v Rochdale on Tuesday.
WIGAN ATHLETIC 3
PRESTON NORTH END 1
Latics recorded a deserved fourth straight Youth Alliance victory in a row on Saturday, with goals from Louis Robles, Callum Lang and Sam Cosgrove taking the title battle into the final game of the season after a 3-1 victory against local rivals Preston North End.
Extended an unbeaten run in the competition which dates back to September, Peter Atherton's youngsters found themselves level at half time after Robles' opener was cancelled out, but a combination of will power and cutting edge in front of goal saw Lang and Cosgrove wrap up three impressive points.
Victory takes Latics into Tuesday's final game of the season away to Rochdale needing just one point to secure the title, with Bury currently leading the division by a single point.
Latics went into Saturday's game knowing what they had to do to win the league, and they delivered early, seeing off some initial speculative efforts from distance, before beginning to create their own moments of danger.
Adrian Purzycki's low drive from 20 yards tested the gloves of the Preston keeper, but despite two bites at stopping Latics' next chance, he simply couldn't stop top scorer Robles from adding to his impressive tally for the season.
It was a swift move finished off with persistence, as midfielder Josh Gregory found Lang down the right wing, with the newly announced scholar sliding the ball towards the near post for Robles. The striker tried first time to divert it beyond the keeper, but after an initial block, he followed up strongly to find the bottom left corner, 26 goals for the season.
Four minutes later and the Gregory to Lang partnership almost provided a carbon copy, but Cosgrove couldn't convert in the middle, before Robles eventually struck wide.
Lang was taking the game to Preston down the right, and each time he had the full back scrambling to recover. On 38 minutes he almost got a deserved doubling goal, but after Robles laid him in on goal, a last ditch block denied him a fourth goal of the campaign.
Latics were left to rue the missed opportunity just two minutes before the break, with Preston's left sider cutting onto his right foot inside the area and finding the bottom left corner of Owen Evans' goal.
The disappointment of conceding so close to half time wasn't visible at the start of the second period as Latics simply got on with the task in hand, Cosgrove agonisingly close to retaking the lead when he struck the cross bar in the 52nd minute.
Lang, Robles and defender Reece McNally all came close as Latics continued to push, with the sense of a goal coming amongst some easy on the eye football from both sides.
In the 84th minute and, after what turned out to be an inspired substitution, Latics retook the lead.
On just two minutes earlier, James Barrigan powered down the left side on the counter attack, breezing past the full back before sliding the ball across the box for Lang to follow in.
It was the goal Latics had worked so hard for in the second half and one which took them to within just a single point of leaders Bury, with a game in hand still to come.
From then on only what outcome looked likely, and in the first minute of stoppage time, Cosgrove made sure of the result, driving the ball across the keeper down the right side of the box with a composed finish to grab his 21st goal of the season.
Latics will play their final game of the Youth Alliance season on Tuesday away to Rochdale at Radcliffe Borough with a 2.00pm kick off.
Latics: Evans, Baxendale (Burke 73), Lingard, Gregory (Merrie 85), Anson, McNally, Lang, Purzycki, Cosgrove, Robles, Lambert (Barrigan 82)
Unused subs: Absalom, Sang