BRUCE’S BOYS ADD TO LOWLY LATICS’ WOES
TWO late goals from Aston Villa pushed managerless Wigan that bit closer to the drop.
James Chester and substitute Scott Hogan struck in the final quarter-of-an-hour for in-form Villa, moving them into the top half of the table and dropping the Latics now seven points below the safety line.
Villa have now won five of their last six games, though boss Steve Bruce still wasn’t 100 per cent happy.
Maybe that’s because his team saw off Wigan, a club he has twice managed previously.
Bruce said: “Credit to Wigan, they were really game and caused us lots of problems.
“They changed their shape and their formation, and they were on top for long spells.
“Being honest, we have got to be better than we were here, but there is much more resilience and spirit blowing back into this club now.
“We seem to be getting that balance right, and we’re also keeping clean sheets which give you a platform to build on.
“We’re a threat at the moment. We need to keep that going.”
Bruce also saluted £12million January signing from Brentford Hogan, who bagged his first Villa goal after an injury-interrupted start at his new club.
“I was starting to think we’d lost Scott for the season,” said Bruce.
“But he’s back and he took his goal really well. Hopefully we can develop that partnership with Jonathan Kodjia.”
There was almost an early calamity at the back for Villa, who were being roared on by a terrific band of 5,000 travelling fans.
Mile Jedinak’s intended backpass to Sam Johnstone was too short, but as Omar Bogle nipped in to pinch the ball, the Wigan striker ran too wide and eventually fired into the side-netting.
The Latics, despite their recent woes, had the better of the early exchanges, and Gabriel Obertan fizzed in a super strike from 25 yards that only just missed the target. Michael Jacobs saw his curling free-kick beaten away smartly by Johnstone, while shortly before the break Andy Kellett’s goal-bound strike was deflected off target by team-mate Bogle.
Villa needed to improve in the second period, and they did, eventually breaking the deadlock in the 73rd minute when skipper James Chester nodded home after Matt Gilks could only parry Conor Hourihane's cross into his path.
Six minutes from time the game was up for Wigan when Hogan headed home clinically after rising superbly to meet Albert Adomah’s cross.
These truly are troubled times for Wigan, who sacked Warren Joyce during the week after just four months in charge.
Interim boss Graham Barrow wasn’t too downhearted, despite his side only having eight games left now to save their skins.
Barrow said: “I was very satisfied for so long, but the first goal was a real sucker punch for us. I was disappointed with the way we defended that one.
“There was a lot to be encouraged about, though. At least we managed to work their goalkeeper.
“We nearly produced, but we didn’t quite do enough at the end of it.
“To be honest, this international break has probably come just at the right time. It’s going to give us the chance to rest up a few bodies and maybe just find ourselves again.”
HEAD OVER HEELS: Aston Villa skipper James Chester watches as his header sails into the net, while, inset, Conor Hourihane and Scott Hogan celebrate the second