Flores and Chow combine as Latics edge 2-1 win in title battle.
- Latics clinch 2-1 victory against title rivals Port Vale.
- Jordan Flores and Tim Chow on target in the second half at Robin Park.
- Leon Barnett and Billy Mckay both feature.
WIGAN ATHLETIC 2
PORT VALE 1
Campion 85 (pen)
Latics opened up ground in the Final Third Development League West title race with a 2-0 victory over second place Port Vale at Robin Park this afternoon, with Jordan Flores and Tim Chow both on target in the second half, with Mayowa Balogun's stoppage time clearance off the line crucial, following Achille Campion's 85th minute penalty.
After a cagey first half things opened up in a game which could prove pivotal in Latics' title chances. Victory does move them four clear at the top, but the Vale Park side have three games still to play, with Latics set for their final fixture of the season next week away at Walsall.
Leon Barnett and Billy Mckay both featured for the Development Squad, with the defender subbed in second half injury time and the striker replaced by Louis Robles after 73 minutes.
Latics started really brightly, and should have taken the lead just two minutes in, when Flores' free kick from the right found the head of Barnett at the left post. He headed back across goal towards Mckay, but the Northern Ireland international couldn't get enough purchase on his header at the right post and Sam Johnson made a simple catch.
Campion was Port Vale's main point of attack throughout, showing early signs of what he could do when he leaped onto a loose ball in the box and forced Connor Keane into a smart block.
The chances dried up after that, and up until half time it was a cagey contest, with neither team giving an inch.
It was a completely different story in the second half and Latics opened the game up just four minutes in. Matty Hamilton darted into the area down the left, beating keeper Johnson to the ball and cutting it back from the by-line to Mckay, his effort only finding a defender on the line. The clearance was poor and fell straight to Hamilton, but the Republic of Ireland Under 21 international could only hit the outside of the post from a tight angle.
Latics didn't have to wait long for the opening goal though, with Declan Poole feeding Flores onto the edge of the box, allowing the winger to make his fourth goal of the season look simple as he fired low into the bottom right corner.
Two minutes later and Flores came close to a much more dramatic second as he crashed a right footed volley off the left post, with the rebound then falling to Ryan Jennings who fizzed a low shot into the grasp of the Port Vale keeper.
Latics continued to test the Valiants, with Hamilton forcing Johnson to push a low shot around the post just before the hour mark.
In the 66th minute Latics' persistence paid off, this time the quick thinking of Chow and Joey Johnson paying dividends.
Chow, who was in at right back, arched a run around the outside of the Port Vale defence, sneaking into a gap in the middle for Johnson to thread the ball into. Chow used the pace on the pass to divert the ball around the on-rushing goalkeeper and into the bottom right corner.
At 2-0 Latics were looking to kill the game off, but with five minutes remaining the visitors were handed a life line when Barnett's challenge on Deen-Conteh forced referee Richard Aspinall to point to the penalty spot.
Campion stepped up to send Keane the wrong way, thumping in what eventually turned out to be a consolation.
It would have been more than that had it not been for the vital positioning of defender Mayowa Balogun on the line. Port Vale whipped in a late corner with Richard Duffy sending an effort goal bound, Balogun in the right place at the right time to hook it away and preserve all three points.
Latics: Keane, Chow (Capt), Balogun, Poole, Barnett (Anson 90+3, Langford, Jennings, Johnson, Mckay (Robles 73), Hamilton, Flores
Unused Subs: Evans, Cosgrove
Port Vale: Johnson, Clarke, Deen-Conteh, Reeves (Haughton 67), Duffy, Bergin, Birchall, Lloyd (Capt), Kapend, Campion, Andoh
Unused Subs: Pickering, Faulkner, Turner