Crewe's efforts ended by McClean's late finish to seal 2-0 win.
A gallant effort from Crewe Alexandra at the home of promotion chasing Wigan Athletic saw the Railwaymen in a contest at the DW Stadium until Irishman James McClean ended our hopes of getting anything from the game with a controlled finish with eight minutes left on the clock.
A compact and resolute first half from David Artell’s side saw us go in at the interval on level terms and Chris Long conjured up a good chance for himself that flashed just wide. Crewe had Dave Richards to thank for making some good saves to keep the Latics out and therefore it was frustrating to concede another goal from a cross. Wigan elected to go shorter at a throw-in and Callum Lang found the space to meet McClean’s fine cross for the opener on 58 minutes.
Crewe remained in the game without really testing Ben Amos enough and Wigan’s drive and pressure finally told with McClean’s killer second goal.
Following the 4-1 defeat at Accrington at the weekend, David Artell recalled club captain Luke Murphy and forwards Chris Long and Bassala Sambou for the trip to Wigan Athletic. Midfielder Tom Lowery returned from illness to regain his place.
Wigan had an early opportunity from a free-kick after Ryan Alebiosu was penalised for a foul on Josh Magennis on the edge of the Crewe penalty area. Max Power and James McClean worked a short one before Power whipped over a dangerous looking delivery. Dave Richards spread himself to make a fine save and wouldn’t have known that the assistant had raised his flag for offside.
On 6 minutes and with Wigan loading our box at every opportunity with crosses and long throw-ins, Will Keane wriggled free and looked destined to tuck home the first goal of the evening, but a slight deflection took it wide of Richards’ right hand post and out for a corner. After the home side’s high tempo beginnings, Crewe needed to settle into the game and get some of our footballers on the ball.
Wigan continued to dominate possession early on, but Crewe’s work ethic kept them at bay and we began to have spells with the ball in the home side’s half of the field.
Dan Agyei’s presence and grit got us up the pitch on occasions and the handful of a forward won some respite for his team by drawing fouls. Tom Naylor was the first player on the night to be booked for chopping down Agyei.
From a Lowery free-kick out on the right was just too high for Sambou. The forward then did well to tee up Murphy, but his shot from outside of the box was charged down. After weathering that early pressure, it was far better from Crewe.
On 17 minutes, Wigan failed to deal with another Lowery free-kick and after Sambou had provided a cross into the box, Chris Long produced a deft touch to bring it under his control and following a sharp spin, his fierce drive was just wide of Ben Amos’s post. It was a splendid effort from the Alex number 7 and if it had been on target, it would have certainly presented a problem for Amos.
After getting down the right hand side and having a cross cut out for a corner, the club’s new loan signing, Alebiosu appeared to have tweaked a muscle. Although he bravely tried to continue, he was forced off with injury after just 22 minutes. Travis Johnson replaced the Arsenal loanee at right-back.
After Murphy had been penalised for a foul, McClean’s excellent delivery from the free-kick found the head of Josh Magennis and he must have thought he had scored, but Richards dived to his left to push it out and prevent the Latics from taking the lead from a set-play.
Following that chance, Crewe limited the efforts on our goal and it was encouraging stuff from the Alex where a better fine ball or touch in around the Wigan box could have led to chances of our own. A touch of restlessness spread around the DW Stadium because of how well Crewe were doing in the contest.
Richards made another good save to deny Wigan once again from a set-play free-kick and Gwion Edwards dragged a late effort well wide. From a well worked free-kick that slipped in Callum Lang down the left flank, his low cross just needed a touch inside the six yard box to break our resolve before the break. It was the best chance of the entire half. In stoppage time, Power had a powerful drive blocked by Offord. That desire to keep the ball out of our net was much improved.
A clumsy challenge from Murphy into the back of Max Power saw the Alex skipper booked within two minutes of the restart. More strong approach play from Agyei saw him win yet another free-kick in a dangerous area but Lowery’s deep cross was cleared at the far post.
Crewe’s resistance was finally broken in the 58th minute and after all our good work, it was a cheap goal. Crewe were undone at a throw in. Instead of a trademark longer one entering our box, it was played short and McClean’s cross found the head of Lang and this time Richards was beaten. That lapse of concentration and not quite setting right, had finally seen Wigan break the deadlock.
The Alex had to regroup quickly and overcome that set-back in the game. David Artell made his second change on 63 minutes with Ainley on for Griffiths.
Wigan made a double change four minutes later with Magennis and Keane making way for Humphrys and Shinnie. It just reflected the strength the Latics have in their squad.
At 1-0, Crewe were still very in the game, but we needed to ask more questions in the final third. With 14 minutes left on the clock, Wigan increased the pressure aiming to find a killer second goal and Crewe had Richards to thank again, as he saved low from Lang and then pushed the follow up effort from Humphrys away. Crewe survived and were hanging in on there after a scrappy melee.
We needed that genuine chance to possibly snatch a share of the spoils but Wigan found that extra gear to score a second goal with eight minutes remaining. James McClean showed all his experience and technical ability to get over his shot and although it took a deflection off of Travis Johnson to fly past Richards , it was such a well executed shot to seal the points.
Porter came on to face his hometown club with six minutes remaining and he had an early opportunity with his head to possibly give us a passage back into the game. At the other end, Humphrys had a chance to add his name to the score sheet but he took too long in front of goal and Offord was able to apply a block.
Sambou also had Richards to thank for preventing what would have been an outrageous own goal when he was forced to claw out his back header.
As Crewe tried to chase a long goal, Lowery drilled a late shot inches wide of the far post after Long had done well to retain possession and find him on the edge of the box.
Wigan saw the remaining four minutes of stoppage time out to win the points and keep their quest to regain their Championship hopes alive. For Crewe it is now six defeats on the bounce but it was a much improved performance from those against Plymouth and Accrington. The warm applause from a section of the away end reflected the effort the players showed.