Premier League outfit produce clinical display
Town’s attempt to reach the last eight of the FA Cup for the first time since 1972 ended against Premier League opponents Wigan Athletic.
A brace from Arouna Kone and two well taken goals from Callum McManaman and James McArthur was enough to see the Latics through, despite Lee Novak’s consolation.
Mark Robins’ first selection in charge of The Terriers included four changes to the side that beat Leicester in midweek to set up the tie with Roberto Martinez’s men.
Despite their midweek heroics, Town struggled to get going and much of the first half possession belonged to their Premier League opponents.
The first half offered little in the way of clear cut chances for the hosts. Wigan started the brighter side and almost took the lead in the sixth minute. An untimely slip by Jack Hunt aided Callum McManaman who produced a great pass to James McArthur who was unable to find the target.
Sean Scannell showed a glimmer of his recent form in the first quarter of an hour, but The Latics defence stood strong and halted all of his mazy runs.
Alan Lee had the first chance for Town in the 16th minute, but Paul Scharner’s marking distracted the striker’s jump in an attempt to head Calum Woods’ cross past Joel Robles.
Roger Espinoza and McManaman caused lots of trouble for Town and the pair combined brilliantly to almost break the deadlock in the 24th minute. Espinoza created all sorts of trouble for Hunt and his pass to McManaman oozed Premier League quality. Thankfully for Town, Kone was unable to get on the end of McManaman’s equally as impressive delivery.
Wigan didn’t have to wait much longer to make their ascendency count when James McArthur’s pass found McManaman whose close control helped him to neatly lift the ball over Smithies in the Town goal.
McManaman was also involved in the build-up to Wigan’s second goal shortly before half-time. His cross found Espinoza just inside the 18-yard box, whose shot was brilliantly saved by Smithies, but landed straight at the feet of Kone who tapped home from less than a yard.
Town did have an opportunity to equalise right at the end of the first half; Wood teased the Wigan defence before his cross to Neil Danns at the far post was slightly too high for him to control.
Robins made two changes at the break and it appeared to immediately lift the Terriers. Chris Atkinson and Alan Lee were replaced by Lee Novak and James Vaughan in a change of formation.
Vaughan had a chance almost instantly to get Town back into the game. Following great play from Scannell, he found Vaughan just outside the area in acres of space, but was ultimately unable to find a way past Robles in the Latics’ goal.
The visitors extended their lead 10 minutes into the second-half through James McArthur. A great understanding was shown between Jordi Gomez and McArthur which indicated plenty of Premier League quality. The build-up was equally as impressive as McArthur’s strike from the edge of the area, which Smithies had no chance in stopping.
Lee Novak’s sixth goal of the season gave Town hope of a comeback just after the hour mark. A brilliant cross from Calum Woods found Novak at the back post, who showed a lot more determination to reach the ball than the visiting defence.
Town continued to pressurise the Wigan defence and a great cross from Neil Danns with twenty minutes remaining found the head of substitute Vaughan. Robles was left stranded, but was deligted to see Vaughan’s header go narrowly past the far post.
The match opened up with Town pressing for another goal. The Terriers were roared on by a strong home support, but were unable to find the goals to force a replay at the DW Stadium.
Smithies kept the deficit to two goals when he palmed substitute Jean Beausejour’s effort away as well as a speculative cross by Ronnie Stam with 10 minutes left.
A lapse in concentration from Anthony Gerrard allowed Wigan to score the last goal of the game with just under three minutes to go. Kone grabbed his second with a superb strike after the defender had failed to control Smithies’ pass.
Town’s team (4-4-2):
Alex Smithies; Jack Hunt, Peter Clarke (C), Anthony Gerrard, Calum Woods; Chris Atkinson (Lee Novak 46), Scott Arfield, Neil Danns, Adam Clayton; Sean Scannell (Norwood 65), Alan Lee (James Vaughan 46)
Ian Bennett, James Vaughan, Lee Novak, Joel Lynch, Oliver Norwood, Oscar Gobern, Paul Dixon
Bookings Town: Vaughan 58