Clayton strikes to defeat FA Cup holders
Adam Clayton’s superb strike five minutes from time was enough to secure Town’s second Championship win of 2014.
The midfielder’s driven effort flew past Ali Al Habsi to end Town’s four match winless run.
Clayton’s midfield partner Oliver Norwood had twice gone close for Town and saw one effort smash the bar from 30 yards.
This was all after the Latics had passed up a number of superb openings. Martyn Waghorn was the main culprit; the debutant put wide a number of good chances and managed to loft the ball over from six yards.
There was a feeling of optimism around the ground when the teams were read out ahead of the match, with Mark Robins introducing four key players.
James Vaughan, Jonathan Hogg, Joel Lynch and Adam Hammill had all proven their fitness in time for the match and were immediately drafted in.
Town were trying to end a run of four defeats, while Wigan were hoping to continue their excellent form under Uwe Rosler, which had seen them leap up to 10th in the Championship.
Both teams started brightly, but the first real chance fell to the away side; Jean Beausejour’s cross found debutant Martyn Waghorn who shot straight at Alex Smithies.
Town responded and the returning James Vaughan saw his header cleared off the line by James McArthur after a good cross from Adam Hammill.
Town were battling hard against strong winds and persistent rain and almost took the lead in superb fashion. Hammill had switched wings and skipped past Emerson Boyce with ease before curling a shot just wide of Ali Al Habsi’s far post.
A foul by Adam Clayton on Waghorn gave Wigan a free-kick in a dangerous position – and despite some quite frantic defending, Town cleared their lines.
In another dangerous attack from the visitors, Joel Lynch nearly headed into his own net when he connected with Beausejour’s wicked delivery in.
The half ended with Wigan on the front foot, McArthur and Beausejour linked up well with the latter finding Ben Watson, whose fierce drive flew narrowly past Smithies’ upright.
The Latics’ pressure continued at the start of the second half and Town escaped three consecutive corners unscathed, James Perch went close with a header.
Yet more Wigan pressure nearly resulted in the game’s first goal, Marc-Antoine Fortune went close and then a Waghorn volley hit the side netting.
Town escaped again as the game passed the hour mark and it should have been Waghorn with a debut goal. Another brilliant cross from Beausejour found the striker three yards out, but he could only put it over the bar.
At the other end, Hammill made a run and found Paul Dixon; the cross was collected by Adam Clayton who forced Al Habsi to tip the ball over the bar.
The Terriers’ solitary goalscorer at Elland Road last week, Danny Ward, was introduced for Nahki Wells and he hit the side netting from close range courtesy of Oliver Norwood’s dangerous centre.
Some solid Wigan defending thwarted Town again, Vaughan’s cross was diverted over the bar by Stephen Crainey.
A raking shot from Norwood from 30 yards had Al Habsi well beaten but the ball just found its way over the cross bar. Norwood tried his luck again, this time from a 35 yard free-kick, only the bar denied him and Al Habsi was grateful to find the ball fall into his arms.
The Terriers finally broke the deadlock and it was Clayton who fired Town into the lead. The ball broke to him on the edge of the box and he lashed it into Al Habsi’s bottom right corner.
Mark Robins’ men held firm for the final five minutes to record a vital three points.
Town’s team (3-5-2):
Alex Smithies (c); Joel Lynch, Anthony Gerrard, Tommy Smith; Paul Dixon, Jonathan Hogg, Oliver Norwood, Adam Clayton, Adam Hammill; James Vaughan, Nahki Wells (Danny Ward, 61)
Ian Bennett, Calum Woods, Peter Clarke, Keith Southern, Sean Scannell, Joe Lolley
Bookings Town: Joel Lynch 67