Axe falls on Forest
Latics well and truly turned the form book upside down as they pulled off a memorable giantkilling act in the FA Cup with Budweiser following their 3-2 victory at npower Championship club Nottingham Forest.
Struggling in the lower reaches of npower League One, Latics were unfancied against the opponents who are challenging for promotion to the Barclays Premier League.
Yet Forest could not live with Latics who produced a devastating display in the second period in which they scored three goals in a remarkable seven-minute spell early on - two from Robbie Simpson, the other from Jose Baxter - to battle back from an opening-period deficit.
And the celebrations at the final whistle from players, staff and the 2,841 travelling fans at the final whistle was something to behold in a season in which there has been little to cheer.
The magnitude of the win was such that manager Paul Dickov described it as one of the highlights of his long and illustrious career in football.
He said: "I am really proud and also emotional. I have had some highs in my career and I was asked if it was one of the best.
"It is definitely up there for what it meant to a lot of people and for a lot of different reasons. I am immensely proud of the players, the fans and the football club.
"It was a big result for us and was really important for lots of reasons, especially financially.
"A lot of things have gone on over the past week and a lot of credit has to go to the players."
Dickov praised their battling qualities of his players, though he thought they paid too much respect to their opponents in the opening half.
He continued: "That can happen in cup games when you come up against a team from a higher league.
"We were 2-0 down at Scunthorpe and came back to draw and were 1-0 behind here and did so again to give our fans, the board and everybody at the club something to cheer as well as my family as I have been a grumpy so and so in the last few days.
"I said to the players at half time what have we to lose? We had all these fans here and I wanted them to have a really good go and not to come here and go out with a whimper.
"I gave them a kick up the backside and in the second half I thought we were magnificent and some of our football was top class.
"You talk about effort, heart and desire, but some of the football we played in the second half was fantastic.
"Results like this show that five or six days is a long time in football."
Dickov was amazed by the turnout as Latics had almost one quarter of the crowd at the City Ground.
He said: "You saw the fans come out in their numbers as was the case last year at Anfield.
"Our away following has been fantastic and the backing they gave us was unbelievable. The one thing was that we wanted to give them something to cheer about because there hasn’t been much of that this season."
Latics had two enforced changes from New Year’s Day as James Wesolowski and Cristian Montano were ruled out through suspension and injury respectively.
Simpson won an immediate recall after completing a three-match ban while Youssouf M’Changama also forced his way back into the starting line up.
Forest made five changes from their last match, a 3-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers. Top scorer Billy Sharp was one of those to miss out as he was named on the bench.
Latics fell behind in the 13th minute with an effort which could well be referred to the disputed goals panel. Whether it was a Matt Smith own goal or will be credited striker Simon Cox has yet to be determined?
Jean-Yves M’voto conceded a free kick near the corner flag. Andy Reid fired the dead ball into the six-yard box and as Cox challenged for the ball it appear to deflect into the net off Smith.
Latics were lucky not to be even further adrift as they created a number of other chances – Dexter Blackstock twice being denied.
M’voto made a goal-saving tackle and then keeper Dean Bouzanis made an important block.
Latics took until the 34th minute for creating their first clear-cut chance when Baxter’s free kick whistle just wide of the upright.
A change of tactics with Simpson switch to wide left and swopping positions with M’Changama who moved in the centre of midfield provided a better balance to Latics’ side.
And they finished the opening period with Baxter twice and Smith having openings, though none came close to an equaliser.
Latics started the second half brightly and the game suddenly turned their way in a remarkable seven-minute spell in which they scored three times.
The equaliser in the 54th minute came when Simpson won the ball, advanced forward and walloped a terrific drive low to the right of keeper Lee Camp from 25 yards.
Barely had the fans come to terms with getting back on level terms than they were celebrating again.
Dean Furman crossed the ball from the right and Simpson ghosted in at the far post to find the net with a header which looped over Camp’s head.
Simpson could conceivably have completed a five minute hat trick but for Camp blocking his shot with his legs.
Latics scored their third goal just after the hour mark after Forest were reduced to 10 men when Danny Collins hauled back Smith who burst through on goal.
Baxter added further punishment by smashing the resulting free kick from the edge of the box wide of the defensive wall and into the far corner, his 11th goal of the campaign.
Forest’s response was to bring on leading scorer Sharp as desperate measures were needed for them to find a way back into the net.
They have a shout for a penalty turned down after Cliff Byrne’s challenge on Blackstock, Chris Cohen’s angled shot was turned away for a corner by Bouzanis who also caused hearts to flutter after fumbling a couple of lofted balls.
Latics could conceivably have added a fourth goal in the 83rd minute when M’Changama’s stinging shot brought a full length diving save from Camp to turn it to safety.
Forest eventually got a second in the fifth minute of stoppage time – only four had been signalled.
Sharp ran on to a lofted ball and hooked a shot over Bouzanis as it looped into the net.
It was too little, too late as the final whistle went as soon as the kick off took place leaving Latics’ players and staff to celebrate in front of their vast travelling army who returned home along the M1 and M62 in joyous mood.
Forest (3-5-2): Camp; Halford, Collins, Harding; Moloney, Cohen, Majeswski (Sharp 66), Gillett, Reid (McGuigan 37); Blackstock. Subs (not used): Evtimov, Lascelles, Moussi, Lansbury, Greening.
Latics (4-4-1-1): Bouzanis; Wabara, Byrne, M’voto, Grounds; Croft (Millar 90+3), Furman, Simpson (Taylor 81), M’Changama ; Baxter; Smith. Subs (not used): Cisak, Brown, Tarkowski, Winchester, Mellor.
The goals: Smith (13 og) for Forest. Simpson (54,58), Baxter (61) for Latics.
Sending off: Collins (60) for Forest.
Booking: Grounds (37) for Latics.
Referee: Mr R East.
Attendance: 11,293 (2,841 visitors).