Railwaymen shunted into sidings
Latics produced a dazzling display to secure a much-needed npower League victory at Crewe Alexandra.
Second-half goals from James Tarkowski and Matt Derbyshire lifted Latics out of the bottom four on a night when they could and should have won by a wider margin.
The statistics for the opening period were staggering as Latics carved out 11 goalscoring attempts and enjoyed a remarkable 74-per-cent possession – it could not have been more one sided.
Yet Latics came off at half time with the game goalless and, having had two goals disallowed in the opening period, you could have be forgiven for thinking it might be another of those nights.
"Heads could easily have dropped, but all credit to the boys as we didn’t let that happen," explained manager Paul Dickov.
Latics retained the confidence, composure and believe and were rewarded as goals from Tarkowski and Derbyshire lifted the storm clouds which had been gathering following a disappointing start to the season as the 354 loyal fans who made the trip to South Cheshire were rewarded for their efforts.
And the electrifying performance, which earned Latics only their second league win of the campaign, showed the potential within the team and what they are capable of achieving when they are firing on all cylinders.
"It was men against boys," conceded Crewe manager Steve Davis.
A delighted Dickov says his side must now build on the victory at the Alexandra Stadium.
"I told the players to enjoy tonight and that they have now set their own standards. I have always kept believing, knowing the football we can play and the results we can get, but we have to continue that," declared Latics’ manager.
Dickov accepted things have not gone well recently adding the players showed what they are capable of achieving.
He continued: "We played well for the whole match while recently we have done it for 45 or 60 minutes or sometimes it has taken us falling behind to put pressure on teams. Tonight we were excellent from the off and it was probably the best since I have been at the club.
"I believe in this group of lads and I believe in my own ability. I was sure we can turn things round as we showed against a very good Crewe side which was unlucky not to get something from Saturday’s game at MK Dons."
Dickov began with an unchanged starting line up with Jose Baxter again preferred to Robbie Simpson as Derbyshire’s strike partner.
Latics could have been 2-0 ahead inside two minutes when Derbyshire set up Baxter whose shot was blocked by Kelvin Mellor while Lee Croft brought a fine save from keeper Alan Martin.
Yet Crewe could have snatched the lead when Harry Davis’ near-post shot from a Gregor Robertson corner clipped the outside of the upright.
It was one-way traffic, though, as Reece Wabara fired over, Cristian Montano forced Martin into a diving save before Latics had the first of their two goals controversially chalked out for offside.
Croft’s fiercely-struck shot was parried by Martin as the predatory Derbyshire pounced to slot home the loose ball with Dickov maintaining he was onside after viewing the incident again after the match.
Baxter was next to find the net, though he was clearly offside as he glanced home a header from Montano’s cross.
Montano, who was dynamite on the left, was peppering the Crewe goal with three further goal attempts. Baxter ought to have scored from the final one shooting wide after Martin had parried the initial shot.
The former Everton player threw himself to the ground is disbelief and dismay at what was a glaring miss.
There was a blow shortly before half time when Jean-Yves M’voto turned his ankle and limped off to be replaced by Tarkowski.
In stoppage time, and with Latics still reorganising their back line, Crewe almost snatched the lead when Kelvin Mellor was unable to direct his diving header on target from inside the six-yard box.
The opening period was pulsating and Latics must have trooped off wondering why the game was still goalless such was their supremacy. You could hardly catch breath.
There was a lull at the start of the second period – it would have been hard to maintain the pace and intensity of the first half – before Latics made the breakthrough just after the hour mark. Ironically goalscorer Tarkowski (pictured scoring his goal at Crewe) would not have been on the pitch had M’voto not been injured which underlines how fate can intervene.
The 19-year-old central defender stole in at the far post to head home an inswinging corner from Croft. He did well to direct his effort into the roof of the net from such a narrow angle. It was only his second goal for the club in the 21 months since he made his first-team debut.
Latics sealed victory with 11 minutes left when Montano retrieved a Croft cross and fired in a low ball from the left which Derbyshire converted from inside the six-yard box. It was his third goal in five games since his loan move from Nottingham Forest.
There was just one let off for Latics in stoppage time when Crewe captain Luke Murphy’s free kick smacked against the crossbar.
Apart from the two efforts which struck the frame of the goal Latics’ keeper Dean Bouzanis, on his 22nd birthday, didn’t have a serious save to make which was an indication as to how well Latics defended as they kept only their second clean sheet of the campajgn.
Crewe (4-4-1-1): Martin; Mellor, Davis, Ellis, Robertson; Tootle (Clayton 61), Murphy, Bond, Pogba; Aneke (Daniels 80); Leitch-Smith. Subs (not used): Garratt, Turton, Guthrie, Ray, Waters.
Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Wabara, Byrne, M’voto (Tarkowski 45), Grounds; Croft, Wesolowski, Furman, Montano; Baxter (Simpson 69), Derbyshire. Subs (not used): Cisak, Brown, Smith, M’Changama, Hughes.
The goals: Tarkowski (61), Derbyshire (79) for Laticcs.
Referee: Mr M Haywood.
Attendance: 3,935 (354 visitors).