LATICS 2 - 0 NOTTINGHAM FOREST
Goals in either half by Will Grigg and Yanic Wildschut gave Latics a deserved victory against Nottingham Forest in the Emirates FA Cup – as well as earning Warren Joyce his first win as manager.
Latics thoroughly deserved the victory, outplaying Forest virtually from start to finish, and in truth, the victory could have been even more comprehensive than the scoreline suggests with clear-cut chances in both halves.
That said, debutant goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard, who has just signed on loan from Stoke City for the rest of the season, managed to preserve his clean sheet by saving a late penalty from Forest skipper Eric Lichaj.
There were two changes for Latics, Haugaard in for Jussi Jaaskelainen, and Sam Morsy back in a Latics shirt for the first time since playing at Blackpool in the final away game of last season.
Latics went in a goal to the good at the break, but left it until the last few seconds of a really good first half to make their advantage count.
After the lack of chances in the previous game, this match was a complete contrast, with openings at both ends within the first few minutes.
Forest had the ball in the back of the net after just three minutes but Nicolao Duitru-Cardoso had strayed off-side.
Latics responded two minutes later as Michael Jacobs was bundled over on the edge of the box, Nick Powell blasting the resultant free-kick just wide. It was Powell’s first and last involvement, as he limped off shortly afterwards, replaced by Jordi Gomez.
Morsy found space in the box shortly afterwards to meet Yanic Wildschut’s low cross, but completely missed the ball, although Jacobs did wriggle clear of his marker from the follow up and shot just wide.
Gomez was soon in the action himself, shooting over from 20 yards but Forest had a chance on 13 minutes from Hildeberto Pereira’s free-kick, Jacobs deflecting the shot for a corner when it looked on target.
Morsy then had two opportunities in quick succession, firstly firing wide from Wildschut’s pull-back after 16 minutes and, secondly, when he chested the ball down 18 yards out and the shot was narrowly deflected for a corner.
After such an explosive start, the game did quieten down but Latics put together a great move on the half hour mark, which could easily have led to the opening goal. Grigg controlled and twisted to receive the ball in the centre-circle and fed Jacobs on the right. He beat his marker to cross low, the ball was cleared at the near-post straight to Gomez, who wasn’t able to control his shot and it looped over.
Then, at last, in first half injury time, came the goal Latics’ domination merited. Wildschut received the ball with his back to goal in midfield and flicked it wide first time to send Stephen Warnock free down the left channel. His drilled low cross was a beauty and Grigg was in where it hurts to poke it home at the near post.
Grigg could have double his and Latics’ tally in the opening minute of the second half but he poked a Dan Burn ball just wide with Stephen Henderson committed.
Jacobs drilled a shot wide on 51 minutes after Wildschut created the chance down the left side again and was then brilliantly denied by a Michael Mancienne tackle two minutes later after Grigg had sent him clear into the box.
Latics did get their second on 57 minutes and it was the same two players combining to create the opening. Wildschut sent Warnock down the left channel but rather than cross into the box, Warnock pulled it back to Wildschut on the edge of the box. He took a touch and shot low past two defenders and the despairing arm of Stephenson.
Adam le Fondre replaced Wildschut with twenty minutes remaining and it could have been further torment for Forest as Jacobs drilled in a really dangerous cross from the right and Henderson just managed to reach in front of Grigg’s outstretched boot. Le Fondre himself tried his luck from distance on 78 minutes, but Henderson held his effort.
Forest were handed a lifeline on 80 minutes when Gomez brought Lica in the box but Haugaard made himself an instant hero with the Latics fans when he beat away Eric Lichaj’s drilled penalty to preserve the clean sheet.
Jordan Flores replaced Grigg for a late cameo and could have made it an afternoon to remember for him when he shot just wide in the dying seconds from outside the box niot that anyone at the DW Stadium were complaining having just seen their team win at home for the first time since September.