22 January 2022

Leam Richardson hails Wigan’s fighting spirit as Latics go top after late winner

22 January 2022

Wigan manager Leam Richardson hailed his side’s ability to fight to the death after another late show saw them beat Gillingham in a five-goal thriller – and return to the top of Sky Bet League One.

The Latics were very good value for their two-goal half-time lead, given to them by Will Keane and Stephen Humphrys.

With Tom Naylor hitting the bar, and Keane striking a post and seeing another effort headed off the line by Max Ehmer, Wigan would have been wondering how they were not out of sight by half-time.

And those near-misses came back to haunt them when Ben Reeves pulled one back for the Gills within eight minutes of the restart before the visitors, without a win in 14 matches, levelled in the 69th minute through Stuart O’Keefe.

But Wigan once again rallied late on to score another important goal, as James McClean’s corner was headed back by Jason Kerr, for Keane to turn the ball home from less than a yard and secure a 3-2 win.

“I thought we were excellent in the first half,” said Richardson. “If you would have one criticism, it’s that we didn’t score more goals.

“We always expected a reaction from Gillingham, and they kept us honest all the way through.

“Being respectful to Gillingham, I thought they showed loads of fight, loads of endeavour, and we had to stand up to that.

“Thankfully, we’ve managed to come back at the end, we’ve created a couple of chances and then got the goal from the set-piece.

“You’ve just got to keep believing in what you’re doing, and that’s what we do.

“It’s all about repetition and, as long as people are on the same page, if you keep doing the right things and keep working hard, hopefully you’ll get that bit of luck you always need.

“We’ve certainly got the quality of players on the pitch to create those chances, and thankfully we were able to take them again.”

For Gillingham caretaker manager Steve Lovell, it was a case of what might have been.

“We fought so hard to get back into the game,” he said. “And once we got it back to 2-2, I thought there was only one team that was going to go on and win it.

“There was a real opportunity for us to pick up all three points, never mind hanging on for a draw.

“But they’ve obviously gone on and got a third goal – again a free header from a corner – which is so disappointing.

“The players have to take full responsibility for things like that, and stop conceding these soft goals.

“You can’t come to places like Wigan and have to score four goals to win a game.”

Lovell had seen Reeves come off the bench to inspire the second-half comeback, only to limp off injured as Wigan scored what proved to be the winner.

“I think if Ben had stayed on, we might even have nicked it at the end,” he added.

“Even for their winning goal, Reevesy would have been in their box marking their man.

“They had seven men in the box for a corner, we had six markers, and they’ve ended up with a spare man for the header.”

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