Baggies seal first away winJAMES Morrison’s third of the season and a Gary Caldwell own goal secured impressive Albion’s first league away win of the season.
Scotland international Morrison deservedly headed the Baggies in front on 31 and they were two up two minutes before the break when Latics skipper Caldwell turned in the lively Billy Jones’ low cross.
Wigan reduced the arrears a minute later through Arouna Kone – but Albion weren’t to be denied.
Ali Al Habsi was the busier of the two keepers and although Steve Clarke’s side didn’t have it all their own way, they defended superbly when required.
Albion’s second successive win has further cemented their position among the early Barclays Premier League pacesetters and has seen them hit the 20-point mark after only 11 games.
Fifth travelled to 13th on a day when thoughts very much turned to the Servicemen and women who have given, and continue to dedicate, their lives to their country.
Just like against Southampton on Monday, the Albion players’ jerseys featured poppies and a minute’s silence was impeccably observed before kick-off.
Backed by a bumper following from the Black Country, Clarke rang four changes and switched formation. Boaz Myhill, fit-again Morrison, skipper Chris Brunt and Romelu Lukaku came into a 4-4-2 system in place of the injured Ben Foster and benched trio Peter Odemwingie, Graham Dorrans and Zoltan Gera.
Wigan, renowned for their patient possession game, saw plenty of the ball during the opening minutes. With the first shot of the game in the fifth minute, Maynor Figueroa watched an ambitious 30-yard grass-cutter dribble wide.
The hosts looked more threatening three minutes later and it took an important sliding tackle by Gareth McAuley to deny Kone a clear sight of goal from James McCarthy’s attempted through-ball.
Wigan’s pressure was beginning to mount and Myhill was called on to make his first save in the ninth minute when he blocked former Baggies loan signing Ben Watson’s powerful 18-yard drive. Brunt was first to the rebound and cleared for a corner.
Watson had the taste for a shot but directed another long-range effort harmlessly straight at Myhill on 11.
Albion eased the pressure by winning a couple of 16th-minute corners – which sparked wrestling matches inside the Wigan box – but Roberto Martinez’s men saw off the danger.
It was Latics keeper Al Habsi’s turn to be on his toes on 18 when he raced out of his area to beat Lukaku to Shane Long’s flick-on in the nick of time from Myhill’s huge clearance.
It was turning into an enthralling encounter as both sides pressed for the crucial first goal. Albion went close to snatching it on 25 when, after Figueroa inexplicably conceded possession on the edge of the Wigan box, Al Habsi was forced into vital blocks at the feet of both Morrison and Lukaku.
But the Baggies WERE ahead on 31. After Lukaku had over-hit his cross from the right, Brunt pounced on the loose ball on the opposite flank and whipped in a delicious left-footed centre. Morrison showed terrific determination to get on the end of it, out-muscling Scotland team-mate Caldwell to plant an unstoppable six-yard header past Al Habsi.
Albion were looking composed and assured and almost snatched a second on 37. Jones, enjoying possibly his best game for the Baggies, cut in from the right and took Al Habsi by surprise with a 20-yard left-footed strike which crashed into the side-netting.
But Albion put further gloss on what had been an accomplished display thus far on 43 when they surged two up. Jones exchanged a one-two with Lukaku down the right before jinking past Watson and seeing his low cross turned into his own net by Caldwell.
However, the two-goal cushion lasted only a minute. After Claudio Yacob uncharacteristically lost possession in the Albion half, Franco Di Santo spread the play wide to Jean Beausejour and his low cross was turned home by the unmarked Kone at the back post.
The half-time whistle soon followed – allowing all inside the DW Stadium to catch their breath.
Buoyed by their goal, Wigan made a positive start to the second half and Myhill, who looked assured throughout, was called into action in the 49th minute when he dived low to his right to push away Watson’s 20-yard shot. Beausejour was first to the rebound but fired over from an acute angle.
Albion were having to work hard to keep the Lancashire outfit at bay and Caldwell will feel he should have done better with a header from Watson’s corner, which flew three yards wide.
Back came Albion and a stunning Long run sparked a period of Baggies pressure, during which Figueroa had to make a vital clearance to prevent Lukaku getting on the end of the ex-Reading striker’s low cross.
On 56, there was real Albion agony when Al Habsi pulled off the save of the game to somehow tip over Lukaku’s venomous 15-yard shot from Long’s back-heel.
The visitors were well on top as the game passed the hour-mark and Al Habsi produced another save when he pushed away Long’s 30-yarder. Moments later, Liam Ridgewell raced onto Morrison’s lay-off and shot over from a tight angle.
Albion continued to push for a third but Lukaku’s finish lacked the power to beat Al Habsi after the on-loan Chelsea man had outstripped Ivan Ramis down the right.
Clarke made his first changes on 68, bringing on Odemwingie and Gera for Long and Morrison.
However, with the game still at 1-2, Wigan were still very much in this and Shaun Maloney wasted a presentable chance on 71, firing over from 15 yards after good play by Di Santo down the left.
There was further danger on 81 when Di Santo headed Beausejour’s left-wing centre onto the unsuspecting Kone’s head inside the six-yard box. Thankfully for Albion, the ball looped onto the roof of the net.
Wigan kept pressing but Beausejour was well off target with a header from Maloney’s centre – although the officials awarded a Latics corner!
The hosts' final threatening moment came when Figueroa shot well over from the edge of the box.
In fact, it was Albion who came closest to adding to the scoring deep into stoppage time when Youssouf Mulumbu curled a sublime effort just wide from 16 yards.
Make no mistake, the Baggies were full value for this, only their second Premier League win at Wigan.
WIGAN (3-4-3): Al Habsi; Ramis, Caldwell (Stam 64), Figueroa; Boyce, Watson (Gomez 85), McCarthy, Beausejour; Maloney, Kone, Di Santo (Boselli 85). Subs not used: Pollitt (gk), Jones, McManaman, Fyvie.
ALBION (4-4-2): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Morrison (Gera 68), Yacob, Mulumbu, Brunt; Lukaku (Rosenberg 86), Long (Odemwingie 68). Subs not used: L Daniels (gk), Dorrans, Popov, Tamas.
GOALS: WIGAN – Kone (44). ALBION – Morrison (31), Caldwell (own goal 43).
BOOKINGS: WIGAN – McCarthy (simulation 78). ALBION –Yacob (kicking ball away 47), Lukaku (kicking ball away 70), Jones (foul 77), Gera (foul 90+3).
REFEREE: N Swarbrick (Lancashire).
ALBION STARMAN: James Morrison.