Latics move out of relegation places
New manager Lee Johnson immediately worked his magic lifting Latics out of npower League One’s relegation places following the 3-0 home victory against fellow strugglers Hartlepool United.
It was the perfect start for Johnson, who was only appointed on Monday, as Latics scored three terrific goals from Robbie Simpson, Jean-Yves M’voto and Jose Baxter while defensively there was an equally important clean sheet.
Johnson, who was given a warm reception by Latics' fans, could not fault the effort and endeavour of his players as they took a massive step towards helping the club retain its League One status.
He said: "I am delighted. The players took to training yesterday, but I knew it would be hard to bed down the principles in one day.
"I thought the lads were fantastic because they did everything asked of them, and more.
"We looked energetic, though I knew we could only play for 70 minutes at that tempo. My mentality was to go for it and then hang in. Fitness wise the players are not up to playing 90 minutes like that, but they will get there in three or four games.
"We have to make sure we go into every game with that tempo. It was such a big result but, more importantly, was the performance."
The win was built on solid foundations with Johnson saying midfield anchors on-loan Korey Smith, who was making his debut, and captain James Wesolowski, were immense along with the defence who he praised for putting their bodies on the line.
"I thought they were to a man fantastic – Lee Barnard did a great job and I was gutted he didn't get a goal which he deserved, Robbie Simpson worked hard in not his ideal position, but that freed Jose Baxter who needs to be given space to produce his magic. I thought he was genius," he said.
Johnson added the defence squeezed play to such a degree that Pools were pressurised into kicking the ball out of play on numerous occasions.
There was a debut for Smith, who is on loan from Norwich, and recall for Simpson in a new look 4-2-3-1 formation with Lee Croft, Baxter and Simpson behind lone front man Barnard.
There was a nervous start as Pools had three decent chances inside the opening five minutes as veteran striker Steve Howard headed wide, Nathan Luscombe's shot was deflected by M'voto for a corner while Peter Hartley's header was well saved by Dean Bouzanis.
The first flickers from Latics came from Baxter who twice forced diving saves from keeper Scott Flinders.
The ever-dangerous Howard flashed another header wide before Latics made the breakthrough in the 18th minute when Baxter's hanging cross was met by Simpson who soared to head the ball high into the roof of the net from six yards. It was his fourth goal of the season.
Baxter was pulling the strings and put Croft clean through only for Flinders to make an excellent save.
It was not long before the second goal came with Baxter again providing the assist. His corner was returned to him and he crossed for centre-back M'voto, who remained up front, to head high to the left of Flinders from six yards. It was also his fourth goal of the season.
Latics could conceivably have added a third goal before the break following a weak back pass from Peter Hartley. Flinders raced out and smashed his clearance into Baxter with the rebound flying narrowly wide of an empty net.
The second half lacked the incident and excitement of the opening period and midway through the period there was a little wobble when in quick succession substitute Andy Monkhouse pulled a shot narrowly wide while Antony Sweeney headed over when well placed.
Had one of those efforts gone in, it might well have been squeaky bum time for Latics.
They survived the scares and Baxter, fittingly, put the game to bed with 20 minutes left when a ricochet fell to him and he powered a shot from outside the box low to the left of Flinders for his 13th goal of the campaign.
Johnson rang the changes in the last 20 minutes as Kirk Millar, Jordan Obita and Chris Iwelumo replaced Croft, Simpson and Barnard.
Sam Collins ought to have found the net for Pools late on but headed agonisingly wide from Simon Walton's free kick.
Latics could have added a fourth goal in stoppage time when Millar shot just over.
Latics (4-2-3-1): Bouzanis; Brown, Tarkowski, M'voto, Grounds; Wesolowski, K Smith; Croft (Millar 71), Baxter, Simpson (Obita 80); Barnard (Iwelumo 83). Subs (not used): Cisak, Montano, Byrne, Mellor.
Hartlepool (4-5-1): Flinders; Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood; Franks, Walton, Luscombe (James 52), Sweeney, Poole (Monkhouse 27); Howard. Subs (not used): Rutherford, Holden, Hawkins, McHugh, Wyke.
The goals: Simpson (18), M’voto (27), Baxter (70) for Latics.
Referee: Mr O Langford.
Attendance: 3,269 (123 visitors).