Latics kick off 2016 with comfortable 5-1 win.
- Latics 5-1 winners in the Final Third Development League.
- Louis Robles (2), Danny O'Brien (pen), Adrian Purzycki and Sam Cosgrove on target.
- Port Vale victims of a heavy defeat as Latics start 2016 in style.
WIGAN ATHLETIC 5
Robles 11, 28
O'Brien 34 (pen)
PORT VALE 1
Latics made a flying start to 2016 with a convincing 5-1 victory over Port Vale at Robin Park Arena, with Louis Robles grabbing a brace, Danny O'Brien converting from the penalty spot, before Adrian Purzycki and Sam Cosgrove added to the tally in the second half.
Omar Haughton grabbed a consolation for the visitors, but it was hardly a scratch on the result, which sees Latics move to within a point of joint leaders Walsall and Shrewsbury Town, with a game in hand in the Final Third Development League.
Latics made one change to the starting XI that face Stoke City in the final game of 2015 with Arnie Baxendale replacing Luke Burke.
It was a promising start for entertainment value at Robin Park, with two chances at both ends inside the opening 10 minutes. The first of which should have resulted in a Port Vale goal, when defender Ryan Inniss headed into the ground, unmarked at the left post, and over the cross bar.
Latics responded a minute later, when O'Brien made the first of many bursting runs down the right side, but his near post cross was just cleared before Cosgrove could reach it.
Alex Lingard then sent in a corner which was flicked into the air by James Barrigan, O'Brien's header sent it back into the six yard box, but Robles could only poke the bouncing ball over the cross bar.
A minute before Robles' opening goal, JJ Hooper came close to giving the visitors the lead, flashing a right footed shot across the face of Owen Evans' goal, narrowly sending it wide of the left post.
Robles took his goal well for 1-0, but a lot of credit has to go to the build up play. Jack Hendry came striding out of defence to find Barrigan down the right side of the area, with the Under 18 forward cutting inside to cross left footed, Robles stealing in behind the defence to head home at close range with real conviction for his 10th goal in 10 starts.
Latics continued to look a threat, O'Brien receiving plenty of attention and coming a post's width from making it 2-0 when he whipped a right footed effort onto the left post from 20 yards.
O'Brien came close again moments later, latching onto the end of Lingard's cross from the left, only to find himself a stride behind the ball, making his touch minimal and sending the ball wide of the right post.
Latics pushed and pushed for a second goal, with a scramble in the penalty area eventually dealt with by the visitors, despite heavy pressure from Cosgrove and Robles.
By 28 minutes Latics found their much wanted second, Robles again in the right place at the right time after Chris Neal could only parry Cosgrove's close range shot, with Robles turning the ball in at the right post.
It wasn't long until Latics had their third. Robles felled down the left side of the area by James Gibbons, but he handed the penalty to O'Brien instead of going for the hat-trick, a wise decision as the former Aston Villa youngster slammed in the spot kick for 3-0.
Port Vale briefly threatened towards the end of the half through a combination between Omar Haughton and JJ Hooper, but the latter's effort was poor and flicked over.
O'Brien then almost forced a fourth goal with seconds of the half remaining, crossing from the right and causing Gibbons to clear the ball behind, narrowly wide of his own post.
Latics began the second half in a similar fashion, but after O'Brien headed over in the opening 10 minutes, Port Vale began to have their first real spell of pressure, winning a penalty in the process when Jonathan Kapend was toppled in the box by Jack Hendry.
Achille Campion stepped up looking confident, but Owen Evans dove to his right to beat away the forward's relaxed effort.
Having been under pressure, the penalty save sparked a surge of attacks, with Latics making it 4-0 in the 65th minute.
It was the move of the game, fast and flowing with a superb end product from Purzycki.
Lingard played a one-two for Barrigan to find Robles inside the left edge of the area, he slid the ball centrally for O'Brien who played it into Cosgrove's feet with his back to goal, the forward laying it off for Purzycki who took the ball in his stride just inside the area to place home into the bottom left corner.
Latics continued to create, but the Valiants were next to net, Gibbons' cross flicked on by Hooper for Haughton to tap in at close range, a mere consolation at 4-1.
O'Brien continued to look dangerous twice sending teasing crosses into the box, which were just too heavy for Robles in search of his hat-trick and Cosgrove in search of a goal for himself.
Cosgrove's goal did come eventually, when he rounded off the 5-1 victory with a powerful header at the right post, predictably it was O'Brien's cross that he converted.
Speaking after the game, Development Squad coach Peter Atherton said it was a great way to start the New Year.
"It kicks off 2016 in a big way for us after the three defeats at the end of last year.
"The performance was excellent and the score line emphasised how hard we worked."
Latics: Evans, Baxendale (Lang 62), Lingard (Merrie 78), Anson (Capt), Hendry, Langford (Beaumont 87), O'Brien, Purzycki, Cosgrove, Robles, Barrigan
Unused Subs: Absalom, Rimmer
Port Vale: Neal, Gibbons, Deen-Conteh, Ede, Faulkner, Inniss, Kapend, Steele, Hooper, Campion, Haughton
Unused Subs: Pickering, Calverley, Morris, Attrell, Turner