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17:10 6th February 2016
By  Ed Jones


A double goal burst in three second half minutes sealed a superb victory at promotion rivals Sheffield United, results elsewhere seeing Latics move up a place to 3rd place in Sky Bet League One, now just a single point behind the automatic places.

Will Grigg netted from the spot shortly after the break to score his 14th goal of an increasingly fruitful season, although it could have been 15 had United keeper George Long not pulled off a superb save from a second penalty twenty minutes later.

Debutant Conor McAleny scored three minutes after Grigg to double Latics’ advantage with a great finish as Latics broke in numbers and Gary Caldwell’s men saw out the game impressively, threatening to increase the lead themselves.  

Caldwell made two changes going into the match as the team reverted to a back four. McAleny was handed his debut, while Sam Morsy started for the first time in Latics colours after his arrival from Chesterfield ten days ago and looked assured throughout.

Latics dominated the majority of the first half, but failed to trouble Long despite plenty of bright build-up play, notably from Grigg, Yanic Wildschut and McAleny.

The best effort before the break actually came from Jose Baxter for Sheffield United, his chip from the edge of the box beating Jussi Jaaskelainen but going just over the bar.

Former Latics striker Conor Sammon was replaced at half-time by Che Adams for United and the hosts came out firing, Billy Sharp immediately forcing Jaaskelainen into a smart three minutes after the restart.

Latics responded immediately, Grigg setting up McAleny, whose drive from the edge of the box was tipped over the bar by Long.

It proved to be an omen as Latics transformed the game with two goals in three minutes.

The breakthrough came on 51 minutes, when Yanic Wildschut powered through into the United box and was brought down by Chris Basham. Penalty, converted emphatically high in the middle by Grigg for his 11th League goal of the season.

Adams did force Jaaskelainen into a save with a powerful shot from the edge of the box but Latics raced up the field to double their advantage.

Wildschut once again started the move, cutting in from the left, riding a challenge before passing to Max Power, he put the ball into the path of McAleny who was able to mark his debut for the club with a quite stunning finish from 20 yards.

Far from resting on their laurels, Latics continued to attack, firstly Daniels crossing dangerously from the right, cleared by Adams for a corner.  Then McAleny again caused havoc down the right hand side evading two challenges to put in a dangerous cross that no player in a Latics shirt could reach.

United responded themselves in the 65th minute, as Adams cleverly turned in the centre circle to set up Jay McEveley galloping down the left hand side but the Blades’ skipper skewed his shot beyond Jaaskelainen’s far post. United forced two corners in quick succession but Latics stayed firm.

Debutant McAleny was replaced by Wabara with 20 minutes remaining, Latics reverting to a back five and they immediately won a second penalty, Paul Coutts clearly bringing down McCann in the box.

Grigg this time shot to Long’s left and the keeper made a superb save at full stretch.

It was to be the striker’s final contribution, Craig Davis coming on for him after 77 minutes and Latics held on, McCann’s instinctive back-heeled clearance from Sharp in injury time preserving a precious clean sheet that was greeted with a huge roar by another great following from Wigan, 1649 having made the trip over the Pennines.