GRIGG'S 20TH SENDS LATICS FOUR CLEARGary Caldwell celebrated his year in charge in the best possible way, not only seeing his team register a 5th consecutive win, a 3rd at home, but the lead at the top of Sky Bet League One has now been extended to four points, with the gap to 3rd place now stretched to 10 points with just five games to go. It really is getting very interesting now.
Will Grigg was to be the match winner here, his predatory strike just before the hour mark was his 20th league goal of the season – the first Latics player to reach that landmark since the great Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts in 2005.
Grigg missed a second half penalty which would have made it a more comfortable ride but in truth, Latics were in control throughout. These really are heady time indeed for Caldwell and his brilliant, dynamic young team.
Latics made just the one change from last week’s victory at Shrewsbury, Leon Barnett retaining his place after coming on as a substitute at Greenhous Meadow, Reece Wabara making way.
Latics shot out of the blocks but although Yanic Wildschut was finding plenty of room down the left hand side, chances were hard to come by with Coventry lying deep and smothering most attempts to find a way through the centre.
Grigg wriggled clear in the box after 25 minutes to meet Stephen Warnock’s pass but Gael Bigirimana tracked the run and blocked his goal-bound effort.
Chance gone but it signalled the start of a good spell for Latics. First Wildschut powered through from the right hand side after 30 minutes and was brought down on the edge of the box, Conor McAleny not able to beat the wall from the free-kick. McAleny then had a half chance as his powerful drive was blocked, then his deep cross from the left a minute later was headed wide by Barnett. McAleny had another effort deflected from the edge of the box which Reece Charles-Cook saved.
The teams level at the break, then with Coventry’s best attempt coming from John Fleck on 24 minutes, his low shot almost deceiving Jussi Jaaskelainen. Jodi Jones also forced Jaaskelainen into a smart save, while Marcus Tudgay shot narrowly wide from distance.
Latics came out firing after the break, immediately forcing Coventry on to the back foot. Grigg almost found a way through before Jack Stephens stole the ball from the striker’s head as he was about to head at goal.
Latics continued pressing, McAleny volleyed just wide on 52 minutes, but four minutes later, at last came the breakthrough and what a goal it was – Latics at their quick thinking best. Barnett drove forward and found Power on the edge of a crowded area. Rather than control it, however, he cleverly opened his legs and let the ball run through to the left wing, where Warnock drilled a superb low cross and the predator supreme, Grigg, dived in to smash it home.
64 minutes gone and McAleny is clearly brought down by John Fleck in the box. Grigg stepped up but despite his kick being low and in the corner, Charles Cook was down sharply to parry the ball to safety. Chance gone.
The arrival of former Latics striker Marc Antoine Fortune was greeted with a mixed reception and he immediately had a run on the right but his cross come shot was well wide.
Latics brought on Wabara to replace McAleny with 20 minutes remaining and Latics continued to press. The same pair who combined for the goal, almost repeated the feat, Warnock’s low cross cut out by Aaron Martin as Grigg was ready to pounce.
Michael Jacobs replaced Wildschut in the 79th minute and almost immediately scored, his blocked shot finding Grigg, who turned but saw his shot blocked as well.
As we entered into the final ten minutes, the tension rose and with the rain now lashing down, players were slipping and tackles were being mistimed.
Latics were still trying to play their quick passing game but nothing was quite falling for them in the final third.
Two minutes of normal time left and goalscorer Grigg is replaced by Haris Vuckic, Latics seeing out the game without any real scares.