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Latics off to a flyer

3 August 2013

Four goals and three points at Stevenage


Lee Johnson described it as "a heart attack waiting to happen" after witnessing Latics' remarkable 4-3 win at Stevenage on the opening day of the Sky Bet League 1 campaign.

Latics' manager admitted it was a rollercoaster of an afternoon and certainly not one for anybody of a nervous disposition as fortunes ebbed and flowed.

Latics, rather unjustly, found themselves 1-0 down at half time before producing a terrific fightback to move 3-1 ahead with 20 minutes left through goals from James Tarkowski, Jose Baxter and Cristian Montano.

If Latics' 735 travelling fans thought they were home and dry they were mistaken as Stevenage drew level with six minutes left.

There was one final twist, however, as Baxter struck the match-winning goal as Latics got off to a great start to their campaign at The Lamex Stadium.

Latics' manager said: "It was a heart attack waiting to happen and exciting to watch.

"We definitely have goals in the side and I thought we played really well and our passing and movement was excellent.

"I was disappointed with the goals we conceded, especially the last two, but we showed character.

"You have to remember this is a new side and the work continues and we will be going over the good and bad things."

Johnson added the whole team played well, but three or four players, including Charlie MacDonald, produced outstanding performances.

"I have a lot of belief in our players going forward, but we just need to sharpen up a little as a team. It is nothing to do with the central defenders who I thought had good games," he explained.

Johnson added that he thought Latics deserved their win and had the majority of play and fans would be able to head home up the A1 pleased with what they saw.

James Dayton recovered from a knock picked up in training in midweek enabling Johnson to go with the side which kicked off the previous week in their final friendly against Huddersfield Town.

Adam Rooney could have put Latics ahead inside 30 seconds as he glanced a header narrowly wide from in front of goal.

Montano and Baxter went close while Tarkowski had a 37th minute goal disallowed as he challenged aerially to meet Baxter's free kick. Referee Darren Sheldrake initially pointed to the centre spot for a restart only to then to overturn it, presumably after the intervention of his assistant who deemed former Latics' keeper Chris Day had been fouled.

Replays proved, however, that Tarkowski beat Day fairly and squarely to the ball and the goal ought to have been given.

To add insult to injury, Stevenage snatched the lead on the stroke of half time with their first serious assault on Latics' goal from a well-worked free kick. Former Latics' player Oumare Tounkara headed against the upright and Darius Charles rifled the loose ball into the roof of the net.

Johnson's message to his players was to keep the faith as he maintained his side would be rewarded if they continued to perform as they had done in the opening period.

And they were rewarded with a 50th minute equaliser as Baxter’s free kick was met by central-defender Tarkowski .Any striker would have been proud of his finish, a venomous shot which arrowed into the net with keeper Day rooted to the spot.

Latics were awarded a penalty midway through the half when MacDonald went sprawling as he tried to connect with Dayton's deadly delivery.

Baxter's shot kick was saved by Day, but his blushes were spared when the ball rebounded to him to slot home.

It got even better when Latics made it 3-1 with 20 minutes left as Montano scored with a breathtaking individual goal. The winger intercepted a pass in his own half and raced two thirds the length of the pitch past numerous challenges before drawing Day and dinking the ball over the keeper.

If Latics thought they were home and dry they were mistaken as Stevenage staged a stirring comeback and made it 3-3 with six minutes left.

Tounkara pulled the ball back to Greg Tansey who swept home their second goal while former Latics’ favourite Filipe Morais rifled in their third.

That was by no means the end of the drama as referee Sheldrake awarded Latics a second spot kick in the 86th minute, this time when he adjudged that Charles handled a shot from MacDonald.

The unfazed Baxter stepped forward again and made no mistake with an unstoppable shot low to the right of Day.

There was no way back for Stevenage this time and Latics almost added a fifth goal at the death when substitute Jonson Clarke-Harris produced a piece of magic only to fire inches wide with Day beaten.

Stevenage (4-4-2): Day; Wedgbury, Ashton, Jones (Shroot 68), Hills (Morais 14); Akins (Haber 59), Heslop, Tansey, Freeman; Charles, Tounkara. Subs (not used): Arnold, Burrow, N’Guessan, Deacon.

Latics (4-4-1-1): Oxley; Brown, Tarkowski, Mellor (Byrne 90), Grounds; Dayton (Schmeltz 75), Smith, Baxter, Montano; MacDonald; Rooney (Clarke-Harris). Subs (not used): Wesolowski,  Rodgers, Millar, Simpson.

The goals: Charles (45), Tansey (76), Morais (84) for Stevenage. Tarkowski (50), Baxter (66,86), Montano (70) for Latics.

Bookings: (Hills 1), Wedgbury (34) Heslop (36), Tansey (50), Ashton (57) Freeman (85) and Charles (86) for Stevenage. Tarkowski (13), Baxter (20), Clarke-Harris (83), Grounds (88), Brown (90+2) for Latics.

Referee: Mr D Sheldrake.

Attendance: 3,009 (735 visitors).

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