Goals in each half by Jason Pearce and Michael Jacobs earned Latics three hugely deserved points in the early kick off at Spotland, closing the gap to top two and extending the unbeaten league run to ten matches.
In front of the Sky Sports cameras, Gary Caldwell’s men put on a superb display, dominating the match more or less from start to finish, and showing great professionalism to see out the game in the latter stages.
Caldwell made three changes from the previous league match against Swindon a fortnight ago, having chopped and changed for the two cup matches since. New boy Alex Revell went straight into the team, with Craig Davies and Jason Pearce retaining their places from Tuesday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory over Blackpool. Chris McCann, Donald Love and Will Grigg were the players to make way.
Latics went in at the break a goal to the good, the only disappointment probably being that the margin was not greater with the home side not managing a single effort on target.
Latics had their first significant effort on goal after five minutes, Yanic Wildschut’s blocked shot eventually falling to Donervon Daniels, whose effort from the edge of the box was well parried away by Josh Lillis.
Daniels then headed over three minutes later from Michael Jacobs’ corner, before Craig Davies side-footed just wide having chested down a great long pass from Pearce and driven into the box.
Pearce turned goal-scorer after 16 minutes to net his first of the season for Latics. Davies and Revell combined on the right hand side to find David Perkins, in centre-field. He jinxed past a challenge before being felled on the edge of the box by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing. Michael Jacobs looked in a good position to go for goal from the free-kick but instead he floated a delightful ball to the far post and there was Pearce stooping to head the ball home though the legs of Lillis.
Jacobs had two great chances to extend the lead, firstly when he shot just wide from inside the area, then when his goal-bound free-kick was deflected for a corner after a trademark Wildschut run had been unceremoniously cut short on the edge of the box.
Reece James limped off after 36 minutes having taken a knock from a collision with Dale skipper Peter Vincenti, replaced by McCann, who slotted straight in a left-back as Latics saw out the half comfortably.
Rochdale did come at Latics at the beginning of the second half, Joe Bunney looping an effort over after Jussi Jaaskelainen wasn’t able to hold on to Michael Rose’s cross.
But Latics quickly got back into their stride, Davies narrowly failing to connect with Jacobs cross six yards out then attempting to chip Lillis after Ashley Eastham’s mistake handed him the ball on the edge of the box, but it was a foot wide.
Jacobs then finally got his rewards just after the hour mark and what a goal it was. Daniels found himself in space in the right back position and put a fantastic 50 yard diagonal ball over to the left side, where Widschut drove to the by line, powering past Rhys Bennett to pull the ball back. Davies dummied it cleverly and Jacobs, on the edge of the box, smashed it home off the underside of the crossbar. Brilliant stuff, greeted by huge cheers from another great travelling support.
Don Cowie immediately replaced Davies, with Revell switching to a central role. Then Tim Chow added his energy in midfield in the final minutes when he replaced Power.
Jaaskelainen saved a drive from Bunney, while at the other end, Perkins almost opened his account for the club in spectacular style, Lillis beating away his fierce drive from 30 yards.