Liddell wonder as Wigan hit the top

Wigan Athletic 5 Crystal Palace 0
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The Independent Football

Wigan bounced back from their unaccustomed taste of defeat in their last two matches to take their place at the top of the First Division by overrunning a pitiful Crystal Palace.

Andy Liddell and Nathan Ellington led yesterday's rout with two goals apiece as a side which has had trouble scoring at home found ideal victims.

"As modest as we like to be here, that was a top-class performance," said the Wigan manager, Paul Jewell. "I feel a bit sorry for Steve Kember because we would have beaten anyone today."

The Palace manager was accepting no such ready-made excuses. "We were outfought, outplayed and outrun for the whole of the game," said Kember. "It was woeful and not acceptable."

But Wigan's display was compelling. From the start, Jason Jarrett and Lee McCulloch threaded past a statue-like defence at will and Thomas Myhre had already saved low from Jarrett and been grateful for an Ellington miskick before Wigan took the lead after nine minutes.

Liddell set a new Latics' record with his 67th league goal for the club, beating David Lloyd's mark. This one owed a good deal to McCulloch's deft touch through the middle, as Liddell rode Danny Granville's wild challenge on the edge of the area to slot it coolly past the goalkeeper.

It started a period of Wigan dominance but the Palace goal led a charmed life. Geoff Horsfield was experiencing one of those days when chances refuse to go in.

First he almost guided in an improvised cross from Liddell. Then he hooked from McCulloch's header and headed wide from Nicky Eaden's pass.

When he latched on to another McCulloch pass but blasted high and wide it seemed it was not his day, but after John Filan had been called into action for the first time to save at Dougie Freedman's feet, Horsfield scored.

It was barely a chance, more an invitation to chase a long whack out of defence by Matt Jackson, but his control and finishing were perfect as he held off two defenders and chipped over Myhre.

In what remained of the first half, Ellington could have scored twice, heading wide from Eaden's cross and firing in a long-range shot after some dazzling footwork.

Inside 11 minutes of the second half, Wigan had doubled their lead, with one lucky goal and one marvellous one.

After Shaun Derry was booked for a foul on McCulloch, the Palace captain Neil Shipperley, was unlucky to be adjudged to have handled the ball as the free-kick came in. Liddell scored the penalty.

Then Ellington shimmied and switched feet on the edge of the area before chipping the ball exquisitely past Myhre.

Ten minutes later, McCulloch's pass and Liddell's unselfish cross saw Ellington head in his second.

Wigan Athletic 5 Crystal Palace 0
Liddell 10, Pen 50, Horsfield 31, Ellington 56, 69

Half-time 2-0 Attendance: 6,796

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