Owen Coyle could not hide his delight after seeing his players round off a gruelling fixture schedule of seven games in three weeks by coming from behind against local rivals Blackburn Rovers and taking all three points in dramatic fashion at the DW Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Latics fell behind to an early Tommy Spurr, before taking hold of the game after Grant Hanley’s straight red card on the half hour mark. Second half substitutes Grant Holt and Emmerson Boyce completed the comeback, with Boyce scoring the winner in injury time to preserve the team’s unbeaten home record and make it three wins from the last three at the DW Stadium.
Coyle was delighted to see his team counter the style and flair of performances against Watford and NK Maribor, with a more industrious, but equally effective display against Rovers, saying:
“We’ve got to understand the demands that have been put on this group since the last international break in a short space of time.
“We’ve got to show we’ve got more than one way to win a game; Thursday night against Maribor was silky and incisive, and today was much more about heart and guts if truth be told.
“The players carried the fight for Wigan Athletic and were determined to show they won’t be defeated in their own back yard against a team on the back of a terrific run in the league.
“Having said that, I thought Scott Carson was fouled in the build-up to the Blackburn goal, but that wasn’t seen and it gave Blackburn something extra to hold onto.
“The red card was obvious, and a turning point in the game as it allowed us to produce wave after wave of attack. We had to be patient in waiting to break them down, and the two goals we scored could have been five or six, without getting to the heights we know we’re capable of.
“At the end of the day every player stuck to their task, we made some good substitutions to help the team during the game, two of the players grabbing the goals and Emmerson Boyce being the match-winner.
“I said to Boycey in the dressing room after the game that he’s a credit to himself and the football club. I was trying to protect him after his efforts for the team in recent weeks, but the energy he showed when he came on was inspirational and helped us claim three great points.”
Grant Holt made his return to the side after over a month out with a knee injury, coming off the bench in the second half to score a crucial equaliser from one of Latics’ fifteen corners on the afternoon, and Coyle explained how that helped the momentum pick up prior to Boyce’s winner:
“Once we got our first goal there was always a feeling that we would go on to win the game, even if it was a bit late and helped to add a few grey hairs to my head!
“I’ve got great belief in this team and the longer we go on together the stronger we’ll get. It was great to have Grant Holt back in the team today, and there’s more to return yet, fantastic players waiting to come in and make us stronger.
“Grant had just two training sessions before today, so we need to keep building his strength up and the international break will allow us to do that.
“But such is the will he has to play and do well for the football club that I couldn’t leave him out. I spoke with him in the week and we talked about giving him half an hour if possible; in the end it was a little more than that but he led the line fantastically well.
“When you have that kind of quality out of the team it speaks volumes of the desire and quality of those who are playing, and who are picking up points.
“It’s not the first time they’ve retrieved points from losing positions and they’re all a credit to the club.
“There’s so much to be excited about this season, and if the players continue to show the courage and conviction they did today it should be a successful one.”