A second half onslaught saw Wigan net four goals, as they defeated Blackpool 4-0 at Bloomfield Road to secure promotion to The Championship.
A brace from Yanic Wildschut in addition to goals from Chris McCann and star striker Will Grigg meant The Latics cruised to victory, their 24th of the 2015/16 campaign.
Despite recording a sensational 4-1 victory over Southend last week, Latics boss Gary Caldwell decided to make changes to his side, with Reece Wabara and Sam Morsy replacing Jason Pearce and Yanic Wildschut in the starting lineup.
Going into the game, Caldwell’s men knew that a point would be enough to mathematically record promotion, despite last week’s win all but confirming Wigan’s spot in the second tier next season.
However, anything other than a win against a Blackpool side desperate to avoid relegation to League Two would open the door for chasers Burton Albion to take the title race to a tense final day.
A surging opening for The Seasiders suggested Neil McDonald’s side hadn’t been distracted by the high-profile protests against Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston occurring outside the ground.
As the first half progressed, Blackpool looked increasingly likely to net an opening goal, with The Latics appearing lethargic and nervous knowing the importance of the fixture.
11 minutes in, it was the home side that recorded the first major chance of the game, with 25-year-old Jack Redshaw bursting into the box, only to be thwarted by Wigan’s veteran keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Minutes later saw another chance go amiss for Blackpool, with Mark Cullen firing his shot inches wide of the left post.
The Tangerines’ biggest chance came in the 39th minute, when a long ball high towards Wigan’s goal caused chaos, with a break down in communication resulting in both David Perkins and Jaaskelainen failing to clear the ball. Blackpool’s Redshaw raced onto the ball and had the relatively easy task of slotting into the empty net, however the Englishman fluffed his shot and fired high and wide, leaving his teammates and fans aghast.
In response to his Wigan side’s inability to get going, a clearly agitated Gary Caldwell decided to make a tactical substitution less than 40 minutes into the game, with January signing Sam Morsy being replaced by eccentric winger Yanic Wildschut.
As the half time whistle blew, a capacity away following appeared flat, as did the Wigan players on the pitch after having delivered a lacklustre display, whilst being lucky to not be behind on the scoresheet.
With the pressure mounting, Caldwell’s players knew they would have to replicate the dominance they had shown in the months prior if they wished to secure victory on the afternoon, a challenge they would suitably rise to.
A rejuvenated Wigan burst out of the traps to pepper the Blackpool goal straight out of the dressing room, with top scorer Will Grigg being the first to test Colin Doyle in the Seasiders’ net.
Impressive ‘Pool forward Mark Cullen was forced off the pitch 57 minutes in following a hamstring strain, being replaced by Jacob Blyth.
The matches’ momentum had entirely shifted by the hour mark, with Wigan thoroughly in command, and about to take the lead.
After winning the ball back outside Blackpool’s box, a disastrous mix-up between Newcastle loanee Liam Smith and Jim McAlister allowed long-serving Wigan midfielder Chris McCann to gain possession. A neat flick was followed by a thunderous strike on the half-volley, leaving Doyle firmly rooted to the spot, as the ball flashed past him into the top right corner of the goal. Jubilation followed, as the 3,000 Wigan fans behind and to the side of the Blackpool goal erupted into life.
Having taken the lead, a quite clearly deflated Blackpool side seemingly collapsed, offering little attacking threat despite their successful exploits in the first half.
Smelling blood, Wigan refused to sit back and settle for a single goal lead, a hunger and desire which has certainly contributed to their lofty league position this season.
In the 70th minute, Chris McCann wrestled the ball away from Liam Smith in the midfield from a throw in, before bursting down the centre of the pitch towards the Blackpool box.
Unbeknownst to the Blackpool defence, Wigan’s fiery winger Yanic Wildschut was making a devastatingly rapid approach towards the area down the left flank, a run which was spotted by McCann, as he deftly slid a perfect pass into Wildschut’s path. Positioning himself, Wildschut delightfully curled the ball past the hapless Doyle, doubling the Wigan lead and securing the three points and promotion for The Latics.
Two minutes later, and the dangerous Dutchman struck again, with the Blackpool defence completely unable to deal with the winger’s deadly combination of strength and speed. A quick pass from McCann was touched into Wildschut’s path by Will Grigg, leaving the winger with only one defender to beat. Oozing with confidence, Wildschut fainted to the right across the box, opening up enough space to unleash a shot into the bottom right corner.
Wildschut reeled away jubilant, with the Wigan attack having torn yet another team’s defence apart.
Certainly not feeling sorry for his annihilation of Blackpool, Wildschut nearly scored his first hat-trick, striking narrowly wide from the edge of the box in the 81st minute.
In cruise control, Wigan iced the occasion with a fourth and final goal in the 80th minute. A corner swung in by Conor McAleny was flicked on by the always involved McCann towards goal, with top scorer Will Grigg on hand to net touch the ball into the net, his 27th goal of the season and 24th in the league. Grigg’s grand league total of 24 saw him match the most goals scored by a Latics striker in a single league campaign this millennium, after Nathan Ellington scored 24 for Wigan in their successful 2004/05 Championship season.
Knowing they’d need a big second half performance, Wigan delivered in the way they had all season, dominating proceedings to make the match appear totally one sided. The victory officially secures promotion back to The Championship for Wigan, despite all but having secured the feat with their thumping 4-1 victory over Southend last week.
Today’s win certainly had significance though, as The Latics are now champions in all but name, three points ahead of Burton Albion with one game to play, whilst having a 20 goal advantage over The Brewers in the crucial goal difference category.
In their first season at the helm of the club, the duo of manager Gary Caldwell and young chairman David Sharpe have delivered on their pre-season promise to get Wigan back to the second tier at the first attempt.