Latics answered their critics in fine style by registering a magnificent win in a battling performance where they managed to mix grit with moments of real quality.
Kim Bo-Kyung started and finished the move to score the opener on the stroke of half-time, Harry Maguire added a second midway through the second half before James McClean sealed it in emphatic style.
The pitch and the swirling wind made it very difficult, allied to the fact Blackpool threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Malky Mackay’s men at times, scoring a late consolation through Gary Madine.
Mackay made just the one change to the starting line-up, Scott Carson coming in to replace Ali Al Habsi in goal, leaving an unchanged outfield from Tuesday’s match against Cardiff City.
The overwhelming highlight early on came from the stands, where Latics’ 2,000-strong backing came good with their promise of singing as many songs as they could remember. So alongside current chants, we got wonderful renditions of ‘Paul Scharner, he comes from Austria’, ‘Teale will tear you apart,’ ‘We’ve got Paul Jewellio’ and many more, even an ‘Oooh Ahh Donny Page’ made an unlikely appearance for the first time in probably 25 years.
Latics’ first notable attempt came on 13 minutes as Jason Pearce flicked on Jermaine Pennant’s corner, but James Perch just unable to make a connection at the far post. Then great work on the left from Kim Bo-Kyung saw him overlap David Perkins to cross, Pearce again was there but couldn’t get enough power on it to trouble Joe Lewis in the Blackpool goal.
Latics finally made the breakthrough in first half injury time, in a move started and finished by Kim.
The South Korean fed James McClean in midfield, who beat two defenders before driving into the area and shooting low. Lewis, under pressure from Marc-Antoine Fortune, parried it for what looked like being a corner, but Pennant reached it at the byline, pulling it back for Kim to side-foot the ball into the empty net.
Latics came out firing after the break, Pennant immediately putting in a really dangerous cross which Grant Hall did well to head out for a corner under pressure. Blackpool claimed a penalty when Tony McMahon went down in the box as Carson came to claim Perkins’ through ball, but the Pool captain received a yellow for simulation rather than a spot kick for his team.
Ojo was replaced by the returning Leon Clarke on 52 minutes, a welcome return after he was stretchered off eight days ago. He was immediately in thick of the action, pressurising Lewis into claiming another good Pennant cross under his bar, then latched onto McClean’s pass from the left but couldn’t force the ball to the unmarked Kim.
Blackpool had their best chance yet on 62 minutes as a disputed free-kick from O’Hara led to a scramble in front of goal before Tom Aldred’s effort from seven yards was brilliantly cleared off the line by the outstretched leg of Emmerson Boyce.
But then Latics broke the full length of the field, with Kim setting up Fortune on the right edge of the box, he pulled it back onto his left foot and saw his curling effort go just wide.
The agony was forgotten a couple of minutes later, when Latics scored their second on 67 minutes. McLean won a corner, Pennant swung it in to the far post where Harry Maguire powerfully headed it back across goal, Aldred managed to get a head to it but couldn’t prevent it flying into the net. Cue wild celebrations as the Latics players to a man came in front of the fans to enjoy the moment.
McClean then broke clear again and fired low to Lewis’ left, the keeper this time holding firmly onto the shot.
75 gone, surely there would be no mistakes now…another O’Hara free-kick led to Carson tipping over for a corner. O’ Hara swung it in but Boyce got his head to it and it fell for Kim who ran unchallenged to the half-way line where he passed it forwards, and Latics had THREE players clear on goal. McClean was first to reach it, he could have squared it to Clarke or Fortune but smashed it instead past Lewis to finally settle any lingering nerves.
Boyce was in the right place again to clear the ball at Medine’s feet as Blackpool still attacked but the striker did manage to get Blackpool’s consolation, turning in McMahon’s cross in the 85th minute after Carson was only able to divert it back across the face of goal.