Wigan Athletic moved to within three games of returning to Wembley, after a comfortable 4-0 success over local rivals Blackpool in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
A brace from Jordy Hiwula, and second half strikes from Sean Murray and substitute Yanic Wildschut ensured that Latics cruised to victory in a game they dominated.
The result means that Wigan Athletic stretch their unbeaten run at home to the beginning of August, with five victories and three draws in all competitions.
Latics boss Gary Caldwell made use of the options in his squad after Saturday’s disappointing FA Cup exit away at Bury, making ten changes to the side that were defeated at Gigg Lane.
Only forward Craig Davies kept his place, with local players Tim Chow and Jordan Flores the headline names in the eleven alongside Jason Pearce, who made his return from injury.
Before the game, both Latics and the travelling Blackpool fans united for a perfectly observed minute’s silence for Remembrance Day.
Despite the changes, Latics made an assured start, seeing plenty of the ball throughout both the first half and the entire contest, with Flores, Don Cowie and Sean Murray all looking composed in possession in the middle of the field.
It was Blackpool who had the first chance of the game however in the 11th minute through Bright Osayi-Samuel. The forward lived up to his first name by latching on to John Herron’s ball on the edge of the area on the break, before firing narrowly wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s goal.
Latics soon found some momentum of their own however, and tested Kyle Letheren on 17 minutes through Jordy Hiwula, who wriggled free in the area before forcing a good save from the ‘keeper with his low effort.
Caldwell’s men built on from the resulting corner through Leon Barnett, who rifled a low effort from just inside the area when the delivery fell to him – that was eventually cleared off the line by a visiting defender.
Latics were suddenly in control of the contest, and took the lead in clinical fashion through Jordy Hiwula, who made no mistake with his second chance of the contest.
The striker was fed by a low centre from the right hand side of the area by Don Cowie, before smashing it past Letheren into the left hand corner.
Hiwula was in the mood for goals, and almost doubled his tally just two minutes later – when he latched onto Chow’s cross from the left, but saw his volley flash over.
The chances were flowing, and Latics let another slip by after 25 minutes through Craig Davies, who came agonisingly close to tapping home another good centre by Cowie on the right from point blank range.
Davies turned provider three minutes later with a similar ball to Hiwula in a chance-laden ten minutes for Latics, but Blackpool survived to keep the score at just 1-0.
The game suddenly went quiet, with the visitors taking a much-needed breather, and both sides struggled to maintain any sort of possession.
Latics found themselves using their imaginations, and it almost paid dividends six minutes from the interval through Andy Kellett and Tim Chow, when the former teed up the latter in the area with a dinked corner, only for Chow’s flick to evade everyone and flash past the far post.
Latics continued to press, but the visitors ensured the advantage would stay at one for the interval, with a good save from Letheren just preventing Craig Davies from dinking over him on the 45 minute mark.
Wigan Athletic started the second half in an identical fashion to the way they left the first, and dominated throughout – taking control of the contest and ensuring that Blackpool were unable to find a way back into the tie.
Hiwula had the ball in the net five minutes after the restart, but was adjudged to be offside, after slipping through and dinking the ball past Letheren.
Latics were firmly in control and saw plenty of the ball, but were given something to think about ten minutes into the second half, with a good five minute phase from the visitors.
Jussi Jaaskelainen had a quiet night, but was forced into an excellent save on 56 minutes, when he reacted quickly to deny Jarrett Rivers on the volley.
It was a warning for Latics, but they took heed, and doubled their advantage eight minutes later through an excellent Sean Murray strike.
The midfielder picked up the ball around 25 yards out, and blasted the ball into the right hand corner with a devastating effort.
Latics were again cruising, but Blackpool again gave a warning of their abilities on 69 minutes through Osayi-Samuel, who forced a last-ditch tackle from Jason Pearce after a winding run into the area.
The spark from the visitors was once again minor however, and substitute Yanic Wildschut made the game safe just two minutes later with another excellent strike to add to his Johnstone’s Paint Trophy collection.
The winger was gifted the ball in the middle of the area, and rifled it into the top right hand corner with an effort to rival Sean Murray for goal of the game.
It was soon four for a clinical Latics, when Jordy Hiwula won his side a penalty on the 75 minute mark, after rounding Letheren and seeing his effort hit a hand in an incident that saw Blackpool’s keeper go off injured.
The forward stepped up to take the spot-kick himself, and dispelled the myth that you should never take a penalty you win yourself, by coolly rolling the ball into the left hand side of substitute ‘keeper Myles Boney’s goal for his fourth of the competition.
Latics were enjoying themselves, and Hiwula almost rounded off the perfect appearance with a hat-trick four minutes from time when he capitalised on sub Donervon Daniels’ wayward effort, but his first-time strike flashed over the bar.
Hiwula was unable to bag the treble, but his fine performance was the gloss on an excellent Paint Trophy performance for Latics.