Will Grigg’s superbly taken 14th goal of the season wasn’t enough to see off a stubborn Peterborough United but does extend the unbeaten run in Sky Bet League One to 14 matches, and with results elsewhere favourable, the gap to 3rd place was extended to five points.
It was a frustrating afternoon in many ways for Gary Caldwell’s men, who had to overcome the setback of losing three players through injury before a ball was kicked in the second half – including talismanic goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen – to try and break through a side who defended tenaciously at times.
Latics dominated in terms of possession and chances created and although Caldwell will perhaps rue a lack of accuracy in terms of converting those chances, the big picture shows Latics strengthened their position in the automatic position on the day and all thoughts will now turn on next week’s visit to bottom-placed Colchester United.
Caldwell was forced into one change before the game, replacing the suspended Sam Morsy with fit again Donervon Daniels, while Chris McCann made way for Yanic Wildschut, who slotted in on the left side of defence.
The teams went in level at the break after a frustrating half in which Latics dominated but couldn’t find a breakthrough, the main talking point coming with Latics forced into making three early changes.
Jaaskelainen was forced off after 17 minutes after colliding with Jon Taylor, having initially saved well from a Michael Smith volley in a rare attack from the visitors. Lee Nicholls came on for his first appearance of the season for Latics.
Posh keeper Stuart Moore first came to his side’s rescue after 11 minutes, blocking Max Power’s shot before rising to his feet quickly and parrying Will Grigg’s follow up. Moore then beat away Craig Morgan’s effort from distance.
The rest of the half followed a pattern: Latics with the majority of possession, creating a succession of chances but finding a way past Moore.
They came close after 26 minutes when Power evaded a challenge but his curling shot went wide of Moore’s upright. Conor McAleny was next to try his luck from distance in the 29th minute, but the ball was deflected for a corner, from which Jason Pearce headed just wide. Another corner was won as Morgan’s powerful shot was deflected.
Wildschut burst through on the left side after 38 minutes, and pulled a dangerous cross across the face of goal but Moore was first to clear the danger. Moore then had to clear at the second attempt from
McAleny’s drive before Wildschut screwed an effort just wide of the post. Wildschut immediately blasted another shot just wide of the other post and Ryan Colclough shot wide.
Latics suffered a double injury blow either side of half-time as McAleny limped off, replaced by McCann and Pearce failed to reappear after the break, replace d by Leon Barnett.
No more options from the bench for Caldwell then as Latics looked to make the breakthrough.
Both keepers had to make key early saves. First Nicholls made his first real contribution of the match after 50 minutes in blocking Marcus Maddison’s shot, then Moore spread himself well to deny Colclough as Latics broke away.
Big penalty claims in the 55th as Colclough fell to the ground between two Posh defenders, nothing given.
Latics kept pushing, Wabara, McCann and Perkins having attempts blocked as the visitors were virtually camped in their own half. Power and McCann shot again, then Wildschut put an effort wide after breaking clear.
Then, with just under 20 minutes remaining, at last came the goal and what a finish from Latics’ leading goalscorer Grigg.
Power slid through a beautiful ball though to him on the edge of the area, he turned swiftly and suddenly found space to smash the ball home from an angle, low to Moore’s right and into the bottom corner – the DW Stadium erupted in relief as much as celebration.
Predictably, the goal changed the complexion of the game, forcing Peterborough to become more attack-minded and Maddison netted with a fiercely struck 30 yard free-kick after 80 minutes which gave Nicholls no chance. Huge frustration for Latics.
Ten minutes remaining, which way would the pendulum swing?
Wildschut found space on the left to cross and Colclough’s shot was blocked bravely inside the six yard box.
85 gone and Wildschut erned a corner. Panic in the Posh area before David Perkins blasted just over. Then Moore pulled off a superb save to deny Grigg. Grigg then wasn’t able to connect with Wildschut’s teasing cross. Agony.