A magnificent first half performance from Wigan Athletic saw them cruise to a 3-0 win over Bury, on a day where they went four points clear in the automatic promotion places.
A sublime first goal for Latics from Ryan Colclough, and a brace from Will Grigg put Latics three goals to the good inside 22 minutes, and it could have been several more, only for both Bury ‘keeper Ian Lawlor and the crossbar to intervene.
Jussi Jaaskelainen had a relatively quiet day, but was called upon on two occasions, and didn’t disappoint – pulling off some cracking saves to keep the clean sheet intact and put the gloss on the performance.
After a string of favourable results, Latics are now four points clear of the chasing Gillingham and Walsall, and 11 points clear of those battling for the final play-off place. On top of this, Caldwell’s men are just two points behind leaders Burton Albion, though they do have a game in hand – a tricky trip to Bradford City.
Gary Caldwell made two changes to his side for this fixture, with last week’s hero Yanic Wildschut and Reece Wabara brought into the starting line-up in place of Conor McAleny and Donervon Daniels.
Latics headed into today’s contest still unbeaten this calendar year, and their confidence was apparent from the offset, with Will Grigg giving a warning signal for things to come after just three minutes.
Yanic Wildschut was fed on the left by Max Power’s throw, and his low ball was met by Grigg, who couldn’t quite turn the ball home for the perfect start.
Bury didn’t heed the warning though, and Latics punished them on seven minutes through the same combination, when Wildschut burst down the left hand side and whipped it in for Grigg – who headed home from close range.
Latics were on fire, and before anyone in the ground could retake their seats, the hosts had another, with Ryan Colclough scoring an emphatic first goal for the club on nine minutes.
The pacey winger cut in from the right hand side and teed up the ball on the corner of the area, before curling it delightfully into Lawlor’s bottom left hand corner to double his side’s advantage.
The visitors were struggling to cope with Latics’ tenacity and desire going forward, but almost provided the perfect response three minutes after Colclough’s goal in a dramatic start, when Ryan Lowe's curling shot went just wide of the post from just inside the box.
The resistance didn’t last long however, and Caldwell’s side were three goals to the good on 21 minutes, courtesy of a Will Grigg penalty.
The forward was released into the box and was quickly fouled when one-on-one with Lawlor. The forward made no mistake, to grab his 13th league goal of the season (16 overall) with a cool finish into the top right hand corner.
Bury again looked shell shocked, but almost responded on 25 minutes with a half chance for Tom pope, who couldn’t quite get his header on target after a cross from the right.
Attention soon turned to the fans in the 27th minute, when they held a touching minute’s applause in tribute to James France, a life-long Latics fan who passed away last week at the age of 93.
Latics were dominating, and almost bagged a fourth on 42 minutes through Chris McCann, who found space on the left hand side and pinged the ball narrowly wide of the far post.
The pace of the game didn’t suffer coming towards the interval, with a frantic final three minutes before the break.
Jussi Jaaskelainen had had a relatively quiet half, but was called into action on 44 minutes and he promptly responded to keep the clean sheet intact.
The visitors swung in a cross that was first met by Danny Mayor, who saw his effort saved from 7 yards, before the ‘keeper showed brilliant reactions to get back up and deny Tom Pope just seconds later from even closer.
Latics quickly pushed forward themselves, and won a free-kick 25 yards out on the right, from which Power forced a smart stop from Lawlor.
The ball came in from the resulting corner, and caused a mad scramble with Grigg and then Wildschut somehow unable to find the net from point blank range. Bury cleared, meaning the score was three at half time.
Latics came out for the second half firing, and were somehow kept at bay on multiple occasions by a combination of Lawler and the crossbar.
It was Jaaskelainen who had to repeat his efforts first though, as he pulled off another smart save on 49 minutes to deny Lowe, who looked to have headed home from close range.
Latics soon took control however, and the bar was rattling on the first occasion just seven minutes into the second half through Will Grigg, who came agonisingly close to completing his hat-trick.
The forward burst down the left hand side, before cutting into the area and seeing his effort clatter onto the bar and bounce on the line and clear.
Latics continued to have the better of it and hit the woodwork once again on 70 minutes through Max Power, who met a cross at close range and slammed the ball against the bar.
Power went close again four minutes from time with a low effort from range, but was denied again, this time by Lawlor – who produced a good low save with his feet.
The drama didn’t stop there, with the game going well beyond the advertised three minutes of added time, when a late challenge on Power led to a mass confrontation, and no less than four players going into the book – three for Bury (Andrew Tutte, Danny Mayor and Craig Jones) and one for Latics (Craig Davies).
The visitors could make no late inroads though, and Latics closed out an emphatic victory in some style to keep the promotion charge well and truly on course.