Bullard strike caps Wigan charge for Premiership

Wigan 4 - Crewe 1
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The Independent Football

Crewe host Manchester United in a cup tie next week and that might come as something of a relief after this meeting of supposed equals saw Wigan tighten their grip on top spot in the championship.

Crewe host Manchester United in a cup tie next week and that might come as something of a relief after this meeting of supposed equals saw Wigan tighten their grip on top spot in the championship. Latics freewheeled for a while after taking a 3-0 lead early in the second half, but there was no disguising the gap in class between these two sides.

Crewe, scorers of three goals in wins in their last three games, were still without their leading scorer, Dean Ashton, but Kenny Lunt recovered from a knee problem to play.

The Olympic cycling champion, Bradley Wiggins, was introduced to his home town crowd before the game, but Wigan did not immediately get into top gear, giving their productive strike force of Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington little to work with in the opening minutes.

That started to change when Ellington slid a pass through for Roberts and Crewe needed Stephen Foster to get in with a timely block. A minute later, Wright's cross was allowed to go straight across the box for Ellington, but his rising shot was beaten out by Williams.

Billy Jones was booked for a lunging foul on Ellington that rather summed up the sudden pressure Crewe were coming under. From the free-kick delivered by Jimmy Bullard, Lee McCulloch scored with a firm downward header.

Wigan appealed for a penalty when Bullard went down as Williams dived at his feet, but justice appeared to be done when play was waved on.

Further damage to the Crewe defence was not long in coming, David Graham threading the ball through for Ellington, who held off a challenge from Richard Walker, to slide it home.

A lovely piece of inter-play with Roberts ended with Ellington firing over. Graham should have done better when Bullard squared the ball to give him a clear strike on goal and Roberts had a shot saved.

Crewe, with nothing even vaguely resembling an opportunity, could consider themselves lucky to be only two down at the break.

Their punishment resumed two minutes into the second half, when a clearing header from Graham's cross fell perfectly for Ellington to volley his second, making it 10 for the season.

Out of nothing, Crewe got one back when Steve Jones hammered in Lunt's flick-on, but the task ahead of them continued to look daunting, even when Alan Mahon missed a clear-cut chance to make it four for Wigan.

Mark Rivers could have got a second for Crewe but drilled his shot wide, and Bullard put them firmly in their place with a run through the centre and a deflected shot from 25 yards which flew past Williams.

Wigan (4-4-2): Filan, Wright, Breckin, Thome (McMillan, 84), Baines, Graham, Bullard Whalley, 87), Mahon, McCulloch, Roberts, Ellington. Substitutes not used: Walsh(gk), Flynn, Dinning.

Crewe (4-4-2): Williams, Otsemobor, Foster, B Jones (Walker, 19), Roberts, Lunt, Cochrane, Sorvel, Vaughan, White (Rivers, 65), S Jones. Sububstitutes not used: Ince (gk), Varney, Bignot.

Referee: M Pike (Cumbria)

Attendance: 7, 547

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