A Jordan Graham brace puts Gillingham on their way to their first win at Wigan since 1997.
A double from Jordan Graham and Trae Coyle’s first goal in league football helped Gillingham to a first win of the league season at Wigan Athletic on Saturday afternoon in an entertaining 3-2 victory.
In what was a topsy turvy game at the DW Stadium, the Gills fell behind before going 3-1 up in the second half. Wigan pulled a goal back soon after, but Steve Evans’ men held firm to seal an important three points.
Earlier on in the day, Evans handed a debut to new signing Josh Eccles, who joined the Gills on Thursday on-loan for the season as a replacement for Stuart O’Keefe. With club captain Kyle Dempsey and vice-captain O’Keefe both missing through injury, Ryan Jackson was handed the captain’s armband.
After a positive opening from Gills it was Wigan who threatened an opener first. A quick corner was initially cleared by the Gills defence, but it fell kindly to Lee Evans on the edge of the box. With time and space, the midfielder fired an effort powerfully towards goal, but Jack Tucker threw his body on the line and the ball deflected over the bar.
Another great opportunity fell the Latics’ way shortly after but Viv Solomon-Otabor didn’t make clean contact with the ball at the far-post and ended up allowing Connor Ogilvie to come back and mop up the danger; it was a let off for the Gills.
Wigan took the lead in the 21st minute through Joe Garner. Solomon-Otabor was again involved for the hosts, this time crossing from the right-hand side. The winger picked out the experienced Garner who volleyed home impressively from the edge of the box to leave Bonham with no chance in the Gills goal. 1-0.
Gillingham responded immediately though as they drew level just a minute later. A long ball forward was flicked on by Vadaine Oliver into the path of Jordan Graham, who fresh from his goal on Tuesday evening, crashed the ball beyond Jones in the Wigan goal to level things up. 1-1.
The goal sprung the young Gills side into life and from that moment onwards they started to take control. A cross from Ryan Jackson found its way to the head of Scott Robertson but the young Scottish midfielder saw his header saved well.
The Gills were in the driving seat and took the lead in the 30th minute through Graham again. The former Wolves man picked the ball up on the Gills left hand side and drove at his full-back. He sent him inside and out before firing low into the corner. In the space of ten minutes Gills had turned the game around. 1-2.
Graham, and the Gills bench, thought he might have added a third just before the break but his effort, direct from a corner, was clawed away by Jones. It was hard to tell from the press box if the ball had crossed the line, but either way it was close.
Gillingham were keen to pick up where they left off in the second half and came close twice in the first five minutes. The lively Graham whipped in another dangerous corner that hit the post before Vadaine Oliver hit a half volley straight at Jones.
In the 62nd minute, Gills added a deserved third. A ball forward from Connor Ogilvie was knocked down by Oliver into the path of Robertson, with plenty of time Robertson picked out Trae Coyle on the edge of the box who curled delightfully into the far corner. 1-3 and, possibly, game over?
No chance! Wigan had looked a threat going forward all day and just a minute later hit back to half the deficit. A corner played in from the right-hand side wasn’t dealt with and Kai Naismith was on hand to poke the ball under Bonham. 2-3.
What followed was a real test for this new-look Gills side. Balls were coming into the box and Wigan started to gain the upper hand, but Evans’ young side held firm.
Indeed, they nearly added to their tally just five minutes from time, but John Akinde was pulled back after going through on goal. Much to the disbelief of everyone in the ground the referee only brandished a yellow card to the Latics defender.
As the game entered stoppage time the Gills had to deal with a succession of corners, and they did just that to seal a first league win of the season.
Wigan: Jones, Pearce, Fox, Cameron, Naismith, Evans, Garner, Solomon-Otabor, Roberts (Crankshaw 90), Perry, James
Unused subs: Evans, Obi, Joseph, Merie, Jolley, Long
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, Ogilvie, Maghoma, Robertson, Eccles, Mellis (Willock 82), Coyle, Graham, Oliver (Akinde 84).
Unused subs: Walsh, Medley, McKenzie, Woods.
Referee: Mr Tom Nield