Excellent team performance sees Latics top the league.
- Latics 2 Walsall 0 at Robin Park Arena.
- Sang and Barrigan score as Under 18s top Youth Alliance.
- Defensive display earns sixth consecutive clean sheet.
WIGAN ATHLETIC 2
Latics' Under 18s battled their way to a well-deserved 2-0 victory over third place Walsall at Robin Park Arena, with goals from Chris Sang and James Barrigan sending their side top of the Football League Youth Alliance.
Walsall made Latics defend for large spells of the first half, with fine performances from Luke Burke and Sam Stubbs, before Sang latched onto a Callum Lang effort for the lead just after half an hour. Substitute Barrigan doubled the tally late into the game, when fellow sub Josh Gregory set him up for a fine finish on the forward's return from injury.
A rain-soaked Robin Park wasn't the easiest place to play football for either side, but Latics showed dogged determination and endeavour to ensure a priceless victory, taking advantage of Bury's absence in the league fixtures to move into top spot.
Latics began the game rallying around to defend a spell of Walsall pressure, but despite a number of key blocks from Stubbs and Burke in the opening stages, it was Latics who mustered the first real chance in the 14th minute.
Chris Merrie surged forward from midfield to feed Alex Lingard down the left, his cross narrowly missing the head of Sang, before dropping to Lang who volleyed straight at the keeper from 12 yards.
Five minutes later Kelland Absalom was called into action, superbly denying Jordan Sangha's long range effort with a fingertip save to send the ball around his left post.
Latics continued to battle away to deny Walsall, whilst working hard to create chances of their own. It paid off in the 35th minute with a fine move opening the scoring.
Lang's movement out wide on the right allowed Matthew Rimmer to pick him out with a well weighted pass, Lang proceeding to roll his shot across goal for Sang to follow in at the left post.
With the rain still beating down the pitch made for a difficult start to the second half, with Walsall coming closest to a goal.
First Lingard made a crucial block to deny Cameron Peters, before Absalom made consecutive saves, firstly denying Sangha with a fingertip save over the cross bar, before diving to his right to tip Maziar Kouhyar's low effort around the post.
Shortly after the hour mark Latics introduced Barrigan for his return from injury in place of the hard working Nathan Randell, before Gregory replaced Arnie Baxendale moments later, with Luke Burgess taking the place of Rimmer.
Heading towards the final 15 minutes Absalom was called into action once again, this time sliding out to intercept Lezion Cela's cross from under the feet of Kyle King at close range.
Two minutes from time Latics' substitutes combined, Gregory striding forward from midfield to find Barrigan in shooting space down the left side of the area, his effort flying across goal and into the right corner for 2-0.
Walsall almost mustered a response when Sangha's deflected effort cannoned back off the right post, but Latics held firm to record their sixth consecutive clean sheet in all competitions, making it 12 games unbeaten.
Latics: Absalom, Baxendale (Gregory 62), Lingard,Beaumont, Burke, Stubbs, Rimmer (Burgess 73), Lang, Sang, Randell (Barrigan 60), Merrie
Unused Subs: Roberts, White
Walsall: Jezeph, Maddocks, Cockerill-Mollett, Sangha, J.Smith, Roberts, Oliver, Shorrock (Cela 62), Peters, Kouhyar, Hayles-Docherty (King 57)
Unused Subs: Caswell, Vann, R.Smith