Roberto Martinez lavished praise on Jordi Gomez after the Spaniard showed true character to put behind him a series of misses against Reading and score a hat-trick that would claim all three points in dramatic fashion.
Latics found themselves behind at half-time having spurned several chances to score, with Gomez and Arouna Kone unable to find a way past Adam Federici in the Royals’ goal. But the 28-year-old’s spirit and determination helped turn things round after the break and pushed Latics to a vital win at the DW Stadium.
Martinez said: “It was an incredible reward for him because I feel at times we give him an unfair role to play in the team.
“Having missed the opportunities in the first-half I thought it was incredible how we didn’t support him, because he gives his life to get results for Wigan Athletic.
“I was very proud of him because he never hid away from his responsibilities on the pitch, played with real style and I hope after the game that everyone can understand that it would have been all too easy for him to shy away and not face up to the challenge.
“He’s given us an incredible hat-trick and we need to help him more on the pitch, no-one has a stronger mental attitude than him and I thought he served as a great example to our youngsters as to how a player should react to adversity on a football pitch.”
The Gaffer was especially proud with his team’s refusal to accept nothing less than a win in a game they found themselves behind in and pegged back in with time running out.
“In the first-half I felt we played with a little bit of fear because of the importance surrounding the game. The players didn’t want to let anyone down which perhaps meant they were a bit cagey but still created the best opportunities of that period.
“Reading had half an opportunity to take advantage and did so from a set-play which put us in a difficult position.
“But the reaction of the players was magnificent; they got rid of that negative feeling, of having something to lose and showed what they can do.
“To score four goals, and I say four because I felt there was nothing wrong with Franco Di Santo’s which was ruled offside, shows the quality and threat we have.
“Even after a rare mistake from Ali, you could see the players were not prepared to settle for a point and fought back for him.
“We have Ali to thank for so much during his time at Wigan Athletic, and when this situation occurs it’s great to see the rest of the dressing room rally round for him, and don’t forget that he did produce the save of the game moments earlier to keep his team in the match.”
Ben Watson was also present at the match, in the dressing room before and after the game to offer his support despite nursing a broken shin suffered at Anfield the previous weekend, and Martinez commented on how symbolic his presence was of the unity within the group:
“We have a very close unit in this club and only seven days ago Ben suffered a broken leg but wanted to be here with the boys to support them when he could easily have stayed home to rest. That’s the unity we have in the dressing room and the feeling around the club which is so special.
“With that in mind the reaction to Jordi at times was very unfair; we’re all one family at Wigan Athletic and everyone gives 100% for the club.”
Chairman Dave Whelan gave the team a standing ovation upon the final whistle, celebrating his 76th birthday on the same day, and the Gaffer explained how motivation this was for the team:
“We said before the game that we wanted to give the Chairman a good birthday present and three points with a good performance would be perfect.
“I’m sure the manner in which we achieved it will make him very proud and he’ll be very happy together with the rest of the fans tonight.”
Finally, the only negative on a fantastic night were the injuries picked up by Shaun Maloney and Ivan Ramis which add to a long list of players currently in the treatment room, and the Gaffer gave his post-match assessment of the pair, saying:
“Shaun’s injury is worse that Ivan’s. His picked up a groin strain and although we’ll asses him it looks as though he’ll be out for a while.
“With Ivan’s injury we managed to catch it just in time before it got worse. He felt a twinge in his hamstring and we’ll asses him to see how long he’ll be out for.
“I have to say thought that Adrian came in to replace him for his first league appearance of the season and showed all his professionalism.
“You need to be ready at all times to help your team-mates and he was exactly that. In football you get out what you put in and that’s true with Adrian; he travels with the team for every game whether he is in the squad or not because he wants to be there to help and support and it was very pleasing to see how he performed today together with the other players who came in.”