Wigan netted twice during a good second half spell at the Christopher Park training centre on Tuesday afternoon and that earned them the victory despite a stunning response from midfielder Jayden Harris.
Speaking after the game, assistant manager Gav Skelton said: “I thought for the first 60 or 65 minutes it was a good test for both teams. Once we made the changes and we had to move people around, and whatever else was needed, that didn’t help us.
“We’ve seen a competitive game against good opposition, which is very pleasing. They had a strong side out and I thought we more than matched them.
“I asked for a high line in the first half, and we got that, and we saw that from the amount of times we caught them offside. Credit to the back four for their discipline in doing that.
“We’ve talked a lot about our record in the final third and we got into some good areas without making it count, which is disappointing.
“They started to get a bit more on top in the second half but, like I say, the changes we made didn’t help. Once they got two goals up you do start thinking and fearing the worst, but the lads showed good application and attitude.”
“Jayden [Harris] stayed disciplined to stay on the pitch because the ref had booked him and warned him that another tackle and he might be sent off, so credit to him for staying out there,” he added.
“That meant he was able to get that fantastic goal but unfortunately we didn’t create enough to go on and get something out of the game.
“We keep talking about the final third so everybody gets anxious, because we’re obsessed by the final third, but we have to keep working on it, keep reminding them to keep the belief that if they keep making runs something will happen.
“You do feel there are goals to come and hopefully we take something from a goal from the edge of the box in this game. It’s about having that belief that you will score, and moments like that do help.”
And it certainly was a goal to be enjoyed.
“It was a brilliant goal,” he agreed. “It was a great strike and, like I say, credit to him for showing really good discipline.
“I thought his performance was really improved from last week and that’s credit to him in terms of being disciplined about his positional play and, within the game, doing what was needed not to get sent off after getting the first yellow.
“I’m pleased he got his goal because that caps off a good day for him. It came because we were getting crosses into the box.
“Jack Robinson put in three or four in the space of two minutes, and pressure builds from that, and we got camped inside their box a little bit, which is good. If you’re in that area you’re going to get more opportunities.”
Overall it was a performance with plenty of positives, and a marked step up from last week’s friendly at Blackburn.
“We saw some really good performances,” he commented. “It was a step up from last Wednesday in terms of everything. It was a step up in every area.
“Last week there were one or two good performances, this week there were four or five really good performances. The manager will watch it back and hopefully he’s got a few headaches.
“For reserve games or bounce games, or whatever we call them, we’ve played two really good sides. Blackburn had first team players out against us, and Wigan had the same.
“You can see the quality and the pleasing thing is we matched it for long periods. It’s just unfortunate that it wasn’t for the full 90 minutes, and we can have no complaints about the result.
“The thing is, reserve football is a really important part of the game but for some reason, these last few years, with development games or whatever you want to call it, u21s, it’s kind of lost that kudos.
“Going back 10 or 15 years it was normal to play a reserve game, but now players look at it as – not a punishment – but they’d rather train.
“The last two weeks we’ve come to good facilities, we’ve played against really strong teams, high quality players, so you definitely benefit from it. Like I say, the difference from last week to this week was good to see.”
Back for close to 75 minutes from a niggling hamstring issue was Dylan McGeouch, who took a familiar anchor role in the middle of the park.
“It was good to see Dylan back and he was always going to be subbed in the second half,” he explained.
“With a hamstring it’s another where you just don’t take risks. You don’t want him to do too much too early and you end up with another tightness injury. We just felt it was best to get him off before he started to get too tired.
“It was the same with Ben Barclay. I hope he’s ok because I thought he was really good. He’s another who stepped up from last week. He was composed and unfortunately, and it’s no reflection on the people who came on, both goals came from that area he vacated when he went off.
“We had to make a couple of positional changes, which was the cause of that. Hopefully it’s not too bad for him but there’s no point in taking a risk with anyone.
“I think he’s come off as a precaution because last season and this season he’s had some niggles. I’ll ask the physio and hopefully, touch wood, it’s nothing too serious at all.
“With players not here [Terry Ablade and Joe Garner] they were training back at Carlisle. It’s important for Terry because he came into the club last week, played a reserve game, and he hadn’t had too much time with the whole group.
“It was important for him to get used to training and to the lads. Joe Garner played last week, and we felt that Edmo needed a game, so that was all that was. Hopefully everyone will benefit from what was a good game.”
It goes without saying that all of the work done is with the next league game in mind.
“We want our first win and the next opportunity is a home game and we like to perform well at home,” he told us. “We go into it really looking forward to it, no trepidation, we’re really looking forward to it, and hopefully the crowd will stay with us, as they have so far.
“They’ve been fantastic, they’ve stuck with us, and if they keep doing that I’m sure that first win isn’t too far away.
“I think the fans have stayed with us because they’ve seen the effort and performance levels. Even against Exeter it was a game that could have gone either way.
“We want to get away from those games where they’re tight and could go either way, where we could have got something. We want to get to a point where we got something and we deserved it. Let’s hope that’s this Saturday.”