Latics’ Emirates FA Cup journey ended at the quarter-final stage but March proved a crucial month in our Sky Bet League One title bid.
- 2017-18 Season Review: March
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- Join us on the journey for 2018-19 – Season Cards on sale now!
On the back of our FA Cup run and a couple of fixture postponements, Latics knew the fixture programme they would face in the final two months of the campaign would be relentless.
A crucial Sky Bet League One clash with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park kicked off March as Paul Cook’s side strengthened their grip on an automatic promotion spot, just. Adam Armstrong and Elliott Bennett gave Tony Mowbray’s side a 2-0 lead in Lancashire and Latics were staring defeat and a battle for their promotion spot in the face until Will Grigg and Max Power scored second-half goals to earn a valuable point.
Six days later, Scunthorpe United travelled to the DW hoping to keep their bid for a play-off place alive after a difficult run of form in 2018, and they did just that. Latics led twice through Chey Dunkley and Grigg but Tom Hopper notched two first-half equalisers. Former loanee Ivan Toney, who had returned to Newcastle United before heading to the Iron, put Graham Alexander’s side ahead in the second-half but Gary Roberts’ first Latics league goal earned us a late point to keep the promotion bid on track.
With the fixture programme far from kind, Latics had to face a tricky league clash at Bradford City before their FA Cup quarter-final with Southampton. Cook’s side exacted revenge for their early season defeat to the Bantams at the DW as Michael Jacobs struck at the death to put Latics back in the automatic promotion places, with games in hand.
The Saints came marching in the following Sunday and Latics’ FA Cup journey was over in what was Mark Hughes’ first game in charge of Southampton following the sacking of Mauricio Pellegrino. Latics were magnificent and Roberts, Gavin Massey and Grigg all could have scored in the first-half but it wasn’t to be and second-half strikes from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Cedric Soares, either side of a wonderful penalty save from Christian Walton to deny Manolo Gabbiadini, earned the Saints a place at Wembley for the semi-finals.
Away trips to Bury and Walsall followed the quarter-final defeat to Southampton and Cook will have been delighted with the way his side made ground up on their promotion rivals with six points from the trips to Greater Manchester and the Midlands. At Bury, Nick Powell and Dunkley scored either side of half-time to earn a battling win after a good start from the hosts.
In contrast, the win at Walsall was won in an explosive and clinical nine-minute period in the first-half in which Jacobs and Dunkley scored either side of Jay Fulton’s first Latics goal.
March closed out with a Good Friday win over Oldham Athletic as James Vaughan bagged his first Latics goal in a 3-0 win at the DW, with the ever-reliable Grigg and Powell also on the mark.