Back-to-back wins as Latics continue to recover form.
- Latics clinch narrow victory to strengthen Youth Alliance title bid.
- 1-0 win over Port Vale sealed by Callum Lang.
- Second consecutive victory following win at home to Blackpool.
PORT VALE 0
WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
Latics continued to pick up their form on Saturday morning, strengthening their Youth Alliance title bid with a narrow 1-0 victory away to Port Vale thanks to a Callum Lang goal shortly after the hour mark.
The forward's 10th goal in all competitions this season sealed three points to extend Latics' lead over Bury at the summit of the division, making it back-to-back wins in the Youth Alliance following the 2-1 win against Blackpool.
It was a tight and often heated contest in Burslem, but Lang helped to provide the moment of inspiration needed when he combined with Matty Rimmer down the right side, before squeezing the ball underneath the Port Vale goalkeeper in the 67th minute.
The hosts ended the game with 10 men after tempers flared late on, as Latics held out to clinch what could prove to be a vital victory in the title race, a week before their clash with second place Bury at Robin Park Arena.
Latics: Absalom, Baxendale, Lingard, Rimmer, Beaumont, Stubbs, Lang, Burke, Sang, Barrigan (Randell 53), Powell (White 90)
Unused subs: Roberts, Plant, Fitton
Speaking after the game, Head of Academy Gregor Rioch aired his concern at an over-intimidating atmosphere created in the match:
"It was the first time since our defeat to Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup that I'd seen our brand of passing football, which was helped by a suitable pitch, something we didn't have in the games against Wrexham and Oldham Athletic recently.
"We created enough chances and dominated the game, but in doing so Port Vale became more physical in trying to cope with our retention of the ball.
"Things were getting out of hand in the first half and I think our players could have been protected more by the officials. There were large periods in the game when I feared for the safety of the players due to the nature of the challenges being put in on them.
"We were met with over-intimidating behaviour from Port Vale, both verbally and physically, which proved the case when James Barrigan had to be subbed off with an impact injury on his foot, while one of their players injured himself making a reckless challenge.
"Even in the build up to our goal, Arnie Baxendale was caught late and play should probably have been stopped. After challenges we had a couple of players booked for dissent, but the culprits of those challenges weren't spoken to. I've no problem in the referee booking our players if they're reacting in the wrong way, but the situations could have been avoided had the Port Vale players been spoken to.
"We're trying to develop good footballers in category three of the EPPP, but if matches like this are allowed to happen often, it's not going to be the case.
"Things flared up at the end after Callum Lang made a solid challenge in a 50-50, and they had a man dismissed for kicking out at Matty Rimmer, they're definitely things which shouldn't be happening on a football pitch.
"Overall our players handled themselves well, but they need to control their reactions when decisions don't go their way."