An outstanding performance set Latics’ Easter weekend off to a flyer as goals from Jordi Gomez, Martyn Waghorn and Callum McManaman secured a 3-0 win over Reading at the DW Stadium.
Uwe Rosler’s side produced one of their best performances to date under the German boss with a high intensity display matched by sheer class on the ball and in front of goal.
The win sees Latics move six points clear of the Royals in seventh place ahead of Easter Monday’s trip to Burnley.
Rosler made five changes to the side that lost out to Arsenal on penalties last weekend with Roger Espinoza making his first appearance since Latics’ 2-1 win at Manchester City in March.
Ali Al Habsi, Leon Barnett, Shaun Maloney and Waghorn also returned for Latics whilst former Latic Nigel Adkins made one change to his Reading side with Wayne Bridge replaced by Hope Akpan.
The Royals, who are notably fast starters, were the first to go close as Jordan Obita fired a 25-yard strike low the Al Habsi’s left, though the Omani international was down well to collect at the second attempt.
Latics reacted to Reading’s early effort with some fine football of their own, high tempo passing down the left-hand side from Espinoza, Jean Beausejour and Maloney opened up a chance for McManaman who forced a smart near post save from Alex McCarthy.
Maloney, who was busy throughout the early stages; moving across the pitch from left to right, then fired straight at McCarthy from the corner of the pitch.
Latics’ best chance of the opening 20 minutes came through further good work down the elft-hand side as Maloney played in Beausejour and the Chilean’s cross was perfect for Espinoza who headed wide at the near post.
Rosler’s side were dominant as the half wore on with McManaman twisting and turning on the edge of the area before firing narrowly wide of McCarthy’s left-hand post.
Possession and quality paid off as the clocked ticked onto the half-hour as Gomez picked the ball up 30 yards from goal, took two strides and unleashed a thunderbolt left-foot strike into McCarthy’s top right-hand corner, leaving the former England youth international with no chance.
James McArthur then forced a low save from McCarthy minutes later with a curling strike from 25 yards as Latics continued to ooze class with their work rate and intensity.
Gomez came to life on the back of his goal with another fizzing strike from range testing the impressive McCarthy ten minutes before the break.
A sensational first-half performance was rounded off three minutes before the break as McManaman broke superbly down the right, beating three Royals defenders before forcing a low save from McCarthy who could do little to prevent Waghorn firing home the rebound from close range.
The second-half began with the same pattern as James Perch forced a save from McCarthy from Waghorn’s corner before McManaman flashed across goal with Gomez inches from converting at the near post.
And, just a minute later, McManaman bagged the goal his effort and skill deserved as Waghorn broke down the left, cut the ball back for the 22-year-old winger who curled a fine effort in off the underside of the bar.
McArthur nearly added a fourth as the game entered the final 20 minutes with the Scottish international firing inches wide of McCarthy’s right-hand post from close range.
Al Habsi was rarely tested in the Latics goal as Reading saw very little of the ball in the final third with Michael Hector firing harmlessly off target from 25 yards in a tame performance from the Royals.
Neat interplay between Fortune and Gomez opened up space for the latter but McCarthy was down to his right to gather as Latics pushed for a fourth.
Perch headed narrowly wide from another Gomez set-piece with Powell close to converting at the back post.