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Latics' perfect night

16 April 2013

One point from safety after Yeovil win


Lee Johnson described it as the "perfect night" and it had nothing to do with Latics defeating his father Gary's Yeovil Town side.

More important than that distraction was the fact that Latics moved to within one point of guaranteeing their npower League One status.

Latics’ victory, coupled to defeats for Scunthorpe, their main rival for the last remaining relegation place, and Colchester could not have made it any better.

And it was Matt Smith who is almost single handedly pulling Latics away from danger.

The giant striker came off the bench to score the winner at Bury on Saturday and also netted the decisive goals against Yeovil, his 10th of the season.

Johnson's two previous wins as manager had been against lowly Hartlepool and Bury, but this was the biggest scalp yet with Yeovil guaranteed a promotion play-off place and still harbouring slender hopes of a top-two finish.

He said: "What a fantastic result and I am so pleased because we didn’t half work hard.

"When you play Yeovil you have to make sure you match their work rate and we did that. We showed them up and they had no answer to our work rate."

Johnson, pictured with his dad on the touchline, believes that if his players show that desire, willingness to get back and help team mates when something goes wrong, in the three remaining games, they will be fine.

"We have given ourselves a great chance of staying up. It is not done and we won’t get complacent about it. It is now well in our own hands," he said.

And as for the family rivalry, there was a warm embrace between father and son at the final whistle.

"We had a little cuddle at the end of the game and I felt for him because he was upset, but the relief inside me took over that emotion," he said.

Johnson added that he used the massive hype about the father-versus-son battle as a means of motivating his players.

He said: "We know our players our players do well when they have media attention as we saw in the cup run.

"I used that before the game to make sure they thought about what they wanted to hear from the media  - we shut them out, worked hard, scored a good goal, Lee Croft ran himself into the ground.

"I was almost trying to get them to think about the headlines which were going to be written. I don't know whether it worked but they certainly struck to the game plan." 

Gary Johnson admitted it had been a difficult night and he was glad it was all over.

He said: "There were a couple of times when I wanted to say calm down. And when he controlled the ball on the pitch, I though what are you doing.I didn’t know if to scream, shout, laugh or cry.

"The reason I didn't enjoy the game was because my team didn't perform. I am pleased for Lee because his team deserved their victory." 

Injuries to central defenders James Wesolowski and Cliff Byrne resulted in Johnson handing a first start to 18-year-old Glenn Belezika.

And the youngster, whose only previous appearance was as a substitute at Sheffield Wednesday last season, helped Latics keep a clean sheet against the high-flying Glovers.

Johnson said: "Glenn has only had four weeks to get into my mindset, but deserves his chance because asks me a million questions every day.

"I gave him a DVD about positioning and he hasn’t given it me back because he watches it twice a day.

"I am so pleased for him as well as for the other lads who took him on like a younger brother and looked after him, not that he needed looking after." 

Belezika for Tarkowski and Smith for Cristian Montano were the two changes from the side which kicked off at Bury on Saturday.

It was Yeovil who were quickest out of the blocked as Sam Foley fired narrowly wide in the opening minute.

Latics soon got into their stride and were hardly troubled again in the opening period in which Smith had four great chances before he made the breakthrough in stoppage time.

The two best openings  came  when Smith beat keeper Marek Stech to an aerial duel but saw his header  cleared off the line by Richard Hinds. He then failed to hit the target with a free header from six yards following a Lee Croft cross.

Smith was a constant threat with Yeovil unable to handle him and they were lucky not to concede a penalty when Hinds climbed all over him.

In stoppage time a wonderful free kick from David Mellor forced a fabulous save from Stech.

It was fitting that Smith made the breakthrough in the second minute of stoppage time stooping at the near post to head home Croft’s corner, his 10th goal of the season.

The second half saw Latics defend superbly as Yeovil hardly had a sniff at goal and only once came close to equalising.

That came in the 85th minute when substitute Vitalijs Maksimenko had a free header from six yards following a free kick, but failed to hit the target.

Latics brought on Kirk Millar and Bobby Reid in the latter stages for Smith and Croft as they looked for fresh legs in the dying minutes as they kept working tirelessly until the final whistle.

Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Brown, Belezika, M'voto, Grounds; Croft (Reid 84), Mellor, K Smith, Simpson; M Smith (Millar 78), Barnard. Subs (not used): Cisak, Iwelumo, Montano, Winchester, Cooper.

Yeovil Town (4-4-2): Stech; Ayling, Hinds (Maksimenko 70), Webster, Edwards; Baltanta (Williams 46), Upson, Dawson, Foley (McAllister 70); Madden, Hayter. Subs (not used): Stewart, Young, Ralph.

The goal: M Smith (45+2) for Latics.

Bookings: Barnard (36, Millar (87), Simpson (87) for Latics. Williams (68), Hayter (77) for Yeovil.

Referee: Mr J Simpson.

Attendance: 3,888 (164 visitors).





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