Dynamic duo maintain good order

Wigan Athletic 2 - Millwall 0
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The Independent Online

For much of yesterday's game, the Wigan fans inside the JJB Stadium looked almost as bored as the ubiquitous policemen, the cost of whose presence is a source of much controversy at the moment.

For much of yesterday's game, the Wigan fans inside the JJB Stadium looked almost as bored as the ubiquitous policemen, the cost of whose presence is a source of much controversy at the moment.

The Championship leaders were having much more trouble on the pitch than off it, stifled by the stubborn resistance of a young Millwall side who refused to allow them as comfortable an afternoon as the town's law-enforcers seemed to be enjoying.

But as so often this season, Nathan Ellington, the division's top scorer with 23 goals, came to their rescue, this time with a penalty after Gary Teale had been fouled. In truth, this was not one of The Duke's better afternoons, perhaps due to a shoulder injury that continues to trouble him and necessitated the wearing of a support yesterday.

Nevertheless, by putting through Jason Roberts, his equally impressive strike partner, to add a second late on, he had still scored one and made the other.

Between them, Ellington and Roberts have now scored 40 goals this season. "We think that we've got two of the better central defenders in this division in [Matt] Lawrence and [Darren] Ward, but they've got so much pace and power that it's very hard to stop them," said Ray Wilkins, the Millwall assistant manager. "We were the better team in the first half, but I can't argue with the penalty and that made it hard for us."

"We expect a lot from our strikers, but 40 goals is a great return," said Chris Hutchings, Wigan's assistant manager. "You would expect a side with that many goals from their forwards to be top of the League."

It remains to be seen how much the Greater Manchester Police charged for their services yesterday, but after two bumper crowds - by Wigan's modest standards - to see the recent games against Leeds and Ipswich, this was a distinctly lower-key occasion. Dave Whelan, Wigan's chairman, last week agreed to meet what he believes are excessive policing costs for the remainder of the season, but it is easy to share his misgivings about why the club should be paying so much more than the likes of nearby Preston and Bolton, especially with fewer than 10,000 fans at the ground yesterday.

In an opening half devoid of excitement, Millwall were marginally better, if only because the onus was on Wigan to do more attacking. "We had a quiet word with the lads at half-time to gee them up," said Hutchings. "I think we'd only had one corner and one shot at that stage, so we needed to improve."

Millwall are without several senior players at the moment, and one of the youngsters promoted to first-team duty is the Scotland Under-21 winger Peter Sweeney. He almost put his side ahead, turning the ball over the bar from eight yards after good work from Danny Dichio, but minutes later it was he who conceded the decisive penalty.

Ellington converted with his usual panache, and with eight minutes to go he turned provider, sending Roberts through on goal. He raced away from Ward before beating Marshall to take Wigan a step nearer to the Premiership. The question is, will all the policemen be joining them?

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