Goals galore as Latics win in final pre-season test at Fleetwood.
- Latics claim victory in seven goal thriller at Fleetwood.
- Power, Burke, Wildschut and Jacobs on target in 4-3 win.
- Academy graduate Luke Burke scores first senior goal for Latics in final pre-season test.
FLEETWOOD TOWN 3
Ball 7, 50
Grant 54 (pen)
WIGAN ATHLETIC 4
Latics brought their pre-season campaign to a close on Friday evening as they edged a seven-goal thriller at Highbury Stadium to defeat Fleetwood Town 4-3, with goals from Max Power, Yanic Wildschut and another free kick from Michael Jacobs, as well as a first senior goal for Academy graduate Luke Burke earlier in the first half.
The hosts hit the ground running in a high-tempo start when David Ball rather fortuitously bundled in from close range, but Power's quick thinking saw Latics bounce back within four minutes thanks to his solid tight-angled finish. Burke, who impressed throughout saw his deflected effort send Latics ahead, before Wildschut's typical powerful style paid off for 3-1 towards the break.
Fleetwood struck quickly again after the break when Ball found space to drive a low shot beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen, but Latics responded quickly once more when substitute Jacobs netted his second free kick in consecutive matches. The Sky Bet League One side struck the last blow when Bobby Grant scored from the spot within minutes of the restart, but Latics held firm and began to reclaim their control as the game concluded.
Latics were without Nick Powell at Highbury, one of three players to be replaced from the 1-0 win at Oldham Athletic as Jaaskelainen came in for Adam Bogdan, David Perkins switched with Jordan Flores and Wildschut for the aforementioned Powell.
As the soon dazzled down in the face of Fleetwood keeper Chris Neal a quick start was expected from Latics, something Gary Caldwell certainly saw from his side with Wildschut's pace and power putting the hosts on the back foot, but it was Fleetwood themselves who initiated the scoring.
Ashley Hunter had the beating of Dan Burn down Fleetwood's right, crossing low to cause the damage as Jaaskelainen pushed Ball's first effort away, but Latics couldn't clear as the striker bundled the opener over the line.
It didn't take long for Power to restore parity, testing Neal's gloves with a long range free kick, before a quick corner with Perkins and a one-two with Wildschut saw Power slam home the equaliser from a tight angle.
Power tried his luck with Neal again shortly after but shot wide, before Burke's left footed effort over the bar provided a dress rehearsal for the young defender's first senior goal.
With 10 minutes remaining in the first half Alex Gilbey and Burke linked up expertly down the right side, with the former spotting the pull back for the latter on the edge of the box, allowing first year professional Burke to make it 2-1 with his deflected effort.
Two minutes later and the power of Wildschut was far too much for Fleetwood, with the Dutchman dropping his shoulder 25 yards out and rifling home his right footed effort.
Burke and Power continued to standout towards half time, the defender teeing up the former Tranmere Rovers man for a wonderful dipping effort, only for Neal to equal the quality with a fingertip save.
If four goals in the first half wasn't enough, Fleetwood and Latics split another three between them within the opening nine minutes of the second.
Despite a quiet first five minutes, Ball's predatory instinct kicked in when he pounced on a loose ball on the edge of Latics' box to arrow a low effort into the bottom left corner for 3-2.
Half time sub Jacobs was having none of it though, picking up the pieces from a foul on Gilbey just outside of Fleetwood's area, before whipping his right footed shot over the wall to beat a rooted Neal on his line.
An exhausting watch, but the goals dried up in the end, only after Grant had thumped in a penalty following Morsy's trip on Ball just moments after the restart from Latics' fourth.
The hosts, buoyed by their third, did begin to test Latics further when they introduced the pace of Keano Deacon, Devante Cole and Aaron Amadi-Holloway, but the combination of Dan Burn, Jake Buxton and Craig Morgan held them back until the final whistle.
Latics pushed for a fifth late on with flowing attacking play seeing substitute Flores heavily involved alongside Jacobs, Gilbey and Power, with just one concerning moment left for Caldwell's side when striker Will Grigg received treatment following a challenge by Conor McLaughlin. The Northern Ireland international did manage to walk off the pitch as he was replaced, a positive sign.
Power, a constant threat to Neal's goal, had the final say, stinging the keeper's palms once more with the final effort of the game.
Fleetwood: Neal; McLaughlin, Duckworth, Pond (C) (Bolger 46), Eastham (Davis 67), B Grant (Holloway 67), Kip (Deacon 46), Jonsson, Trialist, Hunter (Cole 67), Ball (Haughton 61)
Unused Subs: Cairns, Sowerby
Latics: Jaaskelainen, Perkins, Power, Gilbey, Morsy (Barrigan 59), Grigg (Flores 79), Burn, Buxton, Morgan (Capt), Burke (Chow 90), Wildschut (Jacobs 46)
Unused Subs: Nicholls, Hendry, Colclough