Stevenage v Latics
Latics achieved their goal for the night as the 2-1 victory at Stevenage lifted them out of the relegation places in npower League One.
Again it was a display packed with character and resilience as they overturned a half-time deficit.
Second-half goals from Dean Furman and James Tarkowski completed a stirring fightback as Latics picked up three much-needed points.
It was a win which delighted Caretaker Manager Tony Philliskirk who bravely made six changes from the side which kicked off against Everton on Saturday.
He detected the toll the Everton game had taken out of the players, both physically and emotionally, yesterday on the training ground and identified the players most in need of a rest.
Philliskirk said: "The goal, the target before the game was to get three points to get us out of the bottom four which we achieved.
"It was the ultimate game of two halves. We were very lack lustre, off the pace, leggy and tired in the first half when we were second best.
"Credit to the players for turning it around in the second half and got us the goals which earned us three vital points."
Philliskirk took Jose Baxter, Chris Iwelumo, Jordan Obita, James Wesolowski, Connor Brown and Dean Bouzanis out of the firing line as they all dropped down to the bench.
Alex Cisak took over in goal, Cliff Byrne was recalled at right back, Dean Furman, Robbie Simpson and Carl Winchester restored to midfield and Matt Smith was back up front.
Stevenage took a ninth-minute goal with the first move of the match by either side.
Lucas Akins whipped in a dangerous low cross from the right which Tarkowski only cleared to the edge of the box where James Dunne rifled home an unstoppable low shot.
It could have become an even wider deficit as Stevenage had other openings, Ben Chorley forcing a fine reflex save from Cisak.
It was only late in the half that Latics looked like conjuring an equaliser as Cliff Byrne headed against the crossbar from a well-worked free kick and Jean-Yves M’voto fired narrowly over.
There was a further reprieve for Latics when Dunne had a goal ruled out for offside.
Philliskirk explained that the interval was easy for him as the players identified themselves their first-half failings so he had little to say other than to put things right.
There was an enforced change at the restart when Winchester did not reappear after picking up a nasty ankle injury early in the game. He was replaced by Wesolowski.
Latics needed a good start to the second half and got precisely that as they were on level terms within 60 seconds.
Tarkowski’s long ball was headed on by Smith for Furman to latch on it and fire a shot low past keeper Chris Day from just inside the box.
Latics suddenly had the bit between their teeth and they looked a totally different team as Lee Croft and Lee Barnard both forced diving saves from Day.
The match winning goal came on the hour after Smith’s excellent shot on the turn was well turned over by Day.
Jonathan Grounds again delivered a terrific inswinging corner for Tarkowski to find the net with a far post diving header.
Latics had another enforced change midway through the half when Byrne was forced off through a groin problem to be replaced by Brown.
And that was followed by a third injury as substitute Wesolowski had to be substituted through a tight hamstring allowing Baxter to be introduced.
Stevenage applied considerable pressure in the latter stages, but Latics defended resolutely with Philliskirk praising Tarkowski and M’voto describing their performances as “immense.”
The hosts never seriously troubled Cisak who was admirably protected by the players in front of him.
Indeed, in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time, Latics ought to have added a third goal after a terrific breakaway.
Baxter released Croft on the right and it was suddenly two versus one as he squared the ball to Barnard who was clean through only to fire wide. You would have put your mortgage on him finding the net.
Fortunately it didn’t matter as second later the final whistle sounded as Latics left the field with mission accomplished.
Stevenage (4-4-2): Day; Gray, Charles, Chorley, Comminges; Akins (Shroot 77), Grant, Dunne, Freeman; Haber, Beleck (Hoskins 65). Subs (not used): Arnold, Hills, Roberts, Iro.
Latics (4-4-2): Cisak; Byrne (Brown 66), Tarkowski, M’voto, Grounds; Croft, Winchester (Wesolowski 46 (Baxter 76), Simpson; Smith, Barnard. Subs (not used): Bouzanis, Iwelumo, Obita, Millar.
The goals: Dunne (9) for Stevenage. Furman (46), Tarkowski (60).
Referee: Mr S Martin.