Joe Gelhardt's late goal maintains Latics' unbeaten season in the EFL Youth Alliance
- Academy Report: Latics' unbeaten league run continues with 1-1 draw against Tranmere Rovers.
- Joe Gelhardt on target with his 15th goal of the season.
- Latics' squad depleted due to illness, but the EFL Youth Alliance lead is extended following Rochdale's 4-3 defeat to Morecambe.
WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
TRANMERE ROVERS 1
Latics rescued a point to extend their lead at the top of the EFL Youth Alliance on Saturday afternoon at the end of a tough week down at the Academy, with a number of players missing from the squad due to illness, but England youth international Joe Gelhardt was available and got himself on the score sheet to pull his side level with two minutes to play.
The goal, Gelhardt's 15th of the season for the U18s, pushes Latics nine points clear of second place Rochdale, with Peter Murphy's men still yet to play their game in hand on Dale.
Latics were forced into a host of changes due to an bout of illness, but in truth they dominated the vast majority of the game regardless.
It wasn't the start Latics had envisaged as they worked to bounce back from the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup fifth round 10 days previous, with visitors Tranmere grabbing the lead just after the five-minute mark courtesy of a header from defender Kyle Hayde.
Latics' control of the game was clear to see, with the woodwork struck no fewer than three times, as well as two penalties claims turned down.
Tranmere kept their defensive setup tight to frustrate Latics, but a moment of brilliance from substitute Gelhardt opened up the game. The England star, who was joined from the bench by fellow youth internationals Kyle Joseph and MacKenzie O'Neill, picked up the ball inside the right channel, skipped by two defenders and fired the ball past the visiting goalkeeper from 25 yards to net his 15th of the campaign.
Had Latics been given five or 10 more minutes in the contest they would surely have turned the result around, but they'll settle for a point in the circumstances, given that Morecambe beat title challengers Rochdale 4-3.
Latics take on the Shrimps on Tuesday afternoon as their game in hand over Dale, with the chance to extend their Youth Alliance lead to 12 points.
Latics: Tickle, Broe, Robinson, Obi, Long, Monaghan, Culshaw, Baningime, Jolley, Berry, Maffeo
Subs: O'Neill, Joseph, Isherwood, Gelhardt, McWilliam