Jason Roberts took just 34 seconds to endear himself to the Wigan Athletic fans and boy what a way to do it! His first touch of the game gave his new side the lead and set up yet another memorable victory at Preston’s Deepdale ground.
Nathan Ellington also got himself on the scoresheet with a goal in each half but the star of the show was Gary Teale who shone on the right wing. The former Ayr United player scored a screamer and had a hand in all three of Wigan’s other goals, his pace down the line causing no end of problem for Craig Brown’s men.
Preston kicked off the game but within seconds lost possession and a long ball upfield found Gary Teale on the right wing. The Scot raced forward, beat a defender on the corner of the penalty area and slid the ball across the front of goal where JASON ROBERTS smartly back heeled the ball past Jonathan Gould to score with his first touch of the ball in a Wigan shirt.
Not wanting to be outdone by Roberts, Ellington got on the end of a Nicky Eaden centre with 10 minutes gone but saw his header land marginally wide of the upright.
Preston were moving the ball around well but it took until the quarter hour mark for them to make any impression on the Wigan goal. Graham Alexander swung over a corner but former Sheffield Wednesday and Leicester striker Richard Cresswell could only direct his header wide of the post.
John Filan was forced into his first save moments later when Ricardo Fuller set up Tyrone Mears, the former Manchester City trainee hitting a low shot which the Wigan keeper did well to get down to save.
The Aussie was in action again soon after when he tipped an Alexander effort against the post and then a low shot from Chris Lucketti was deflected behind for a goal kick.
Preston got what was really a deserved equaliser on the half hour mark after Leighton Baines earned himself a yellow card for a foul on Jamaican international Ricardo Fuller.
Alexander sent over the free kick from the right and DICKSON ETUHU, another product of the Maine Road youth set up, rose above the Wigan defence to head home from 6 yards out.
Ellington found Jonathan Gould at his best when his shot from a Gary Teale ball was superbly tipped over the bar in the 38th minute and from the resulting corner the home side break down the right wing with Paul McKenna but his ball into the danger zone is sent narrowily wide of the near post by Creswell.
The fourth official signalled for two minutes of added time and the first half seemed to be ending all square but Wigan had other ideas and with seconds remaining Wigan regained the advantage.
A misplaced pass in the Preston midfield allowed Teale to pick up the momentum and he found Nicky Eaden with an intelligent pass to the right wing. Eaden took the ball forward before swinging the ball to the far post with slide rule accuracy to find NATHAN ELLINGTON racing in unmarked to head home his 10th league goal of the season.
The first half had possibly been edged by the white shirts of Preston but they hardly at the races in a second period that could have seen Wigan add considerably more than the two that they eventually did.
Ian Breckin blocked a Ricardo Fuller effort, Creswell headed wide and at the other end Lee McCulloch fired into the side netting for Wigan in the early exchanges after the break.
Wigan then earned a free kick after Claude Davis, another Jamaican international, impeded Ellington and McCulloch was then denied by Gould from the resulting kick, his header comfortably collected by the Scottish keeper.
Preston then took the game up the other end and Fuller put Creswell in but his shot went wide of the far post.
North End were denied an equaliser when Fuller tapped home the loose ball from an Etuhu saved shot but the assistant referee’s flag ruled it out for offside just before the hour mark.
Any hopes that the home side had of salvaging something from this game were well and truly shot out of the water when GARY TEALE capped off a man of the match display for Wigan with his first goal since the beginning of March last year – and what an excellent goal it was.
Ellington, with his back to goal, received the ball in the midway into the Preston half and on the turn put the ball over his head to find Teale down on the right. The former Ayr United forward used his pace to take the play to the right hand edge of the area before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top far corner of the net.
Latics added further insult 8 minutes later when a long ball upfield from Jimmy Bullard picked out Teale, again on the right of the area, but with Jason Roberts in front of goal taking two defenders out of the game Teale cleverly chose to drag the ball back for the oncoming NATHAN ELLINGTON who had all the time in the world to curl the ball past a helpless Gould for his second of the game.
Wigan almost added a two minutes later but Gould, son of ex Wales manager Bobby, somehow managed to get a glove at full stretch to push a Jimmy Bullard curler around the post from 20 yards out, the ball seemingly on its way into the top corner.
Preston made the scoreline a bit less embarrassing in the 86th minute when GRAHAM ALEXANDER fired home from the spot after Jason Jarrett was adjudged to have brought down Richard Cresswell in the box, the Wigan midfielder however feeling harshly done by with the challenge appearing to have been outside of the area.
The goal proved little consolation for The Lilywhites but Wigan needed a fine save from Filan in the dying moments to prevent their hosts from setting up a nail biting finale when the former Blackburn shotstopper threw himself to his right to push away a McKenna free kick from just outside the area.
The final whistle signalled another memorable victory for Wigan over their Lancashire neighbours and the crowd of 19,161 was the biggest ever for a Latics victory in the league.