Fortune favours bold boss
Never has the saying that fortune favours the brave been truer than in Latics' Sky Bet League 1 win at Gillingham.
Lee Johnson made a bold call to include new loan signing Mike Petresso in the starting line up at Priestfield only 24 hours after completing his move.
Latics' manager was rewarded as the 18-year-old Queens Park Rangers winger marked his debut in league football, with the match-winning goal.
Petrasso's goal earned Latics a thoroughly deserved victory as they inched further clear of the relegation places and towards a more secure mid-table spot.
What was even more satisfying was that Latics replicated their excellent cup form into the league, something which they have previously struggled to do.
It was a measure of how well Latics played that they enjoyed a remarkable 59-per-cent possession away from Boundary Park while they had 11 goal attempts to Gillingham's four and the corner count was also nine-two in their favour.
So it proved a highly satisfying afternoon for Johnson as his team registered a third straight win for the first time this season.
And the only sour note was the Genseric Kusunga's sending off for retaliating to a wild challenge.
Johnson said: "It was a great win, though not good for the nerves. I thought it was a really good performance.
"We were comfortable throughout apart from the last 10/15 minutes when Gillingham had to throw caution to the wind as you would expect.
"Before that they didn't have too many shots on target, or shots at all, and were bossing the game.
"I was disappointed not to get two because we had opportunities to score a second goal. That would have killed the game as 1-0 is a dangerous score and we had to defend at the end of the match."
Latics' manager was delighted with the debut of Petrasso.
He explained: "It was fantastic for him and he did well. It is difficult for an 18-year-old coming into the side, but what a great day for him.
"He can phone back to his mum and dad in Canada and tell them he scored the winner on a 1-0 victory.
"It was a big decision because Sidney Schmeltz has been doing alright, but I went for Mike’s youthful exuberance and he has come up trumps with the winning goal."
The only disappointment was Kusunga's dismissal and Johnson says he will consider an appeal after viewing the DVD . He said his player was not the "catalyst" for the flashpoint.
Johnson made three changes from the midweek FA Cup win at Wolves, though Cristian Montano was ruled out through a knee injury and David Mellor was rested. Anton Rodgers stood down to the bench.
Jonathan Grounds and Joseph Mills returned to the defence while Patrasso was handed his debut.
Latics had the lion's share of possession in the first half without seriously looking like scoring.
Korey Smith forced two relatively straightforward diving saves from keeper Stuart Nelson, both from well outside the penalty area,
Gillingham's only first-half chance came in stoppage time when a header from top scorer Danny Kedwell floated narrowly wide.
Latics remained in control in the second half and the breakthrough came in the 57th minute.
Danny Philliskirk cut in from the left and saw his shot well parried by Nelson while Jonson Clarke-Harris saw his follow-up shot blocked. The ball bounced up to Petrasso at the far post and his headed looped over Nelson.
Latics had to endure a couple of anxious moment as Gills' striker Cody McDonald twice went close, but each time Latics' keeper Mark Oxley made important blocks.
The flashpoint which brought about Kusunga's dismissal came in the 85th minute.
Kedwell took out Kusunga near the touchline with a dangerous challenge and Latics' defender reacted angrily and players from both sides became involved.
Referee Graham Scott was about to restart play when he was summoned by his assistant. After the two had conversed, the match official produced a yellow card for Kedwell and red for Kusunga.
Smith moved from midfield to right back to cover for the loss of Kusunga.
Latics' 10 men were hardly troubled in the five remaining minutes of normal time and a further seven for stoppages which became almost eight.
Indeed, Latics came within a whisker of adding s second goal when Mills almost marked his farewell appearance at the end of his three-month loan with a goal.
Mills curled a delightful free kick over the defensive wall, but it flashed just wide of the upright.
Gillingham (4-4-2): Nelson; Hewitt, Legge, Barrett (Dack 86), Martin; Herriman, Hollands (Weston 65), Mousinho, Whelpdale (Fagsn 65); McDonald, Kedwell. Subs (not used): Davies, Akinfenwa, Howard, Hessenthaler.
Latics (4-4-2): Oxley; Kusunga, Tarkowski, Grounds, Mills; Patrasso (Schmeltz 60), Smith, Wesolowski, Dayton; Philliskirk (MacDonald 76). Clarke-Harris (Rooney 74). Subs (not used): Winchester, Rodgers, Lanzoni, Rachubka.
The goal: Patrasso (57) for Latics.
Sending off: Kusunga (85) for Latics.
Bookings: Legge (48), Hewitt (78) Kedwell (85) for Gillingham. Smith (30), Dayton (87), Oxley (90+6).
Referee: Mr G Scott.
Attendance: (not provided).