ST HELENS rugby league fan Conor Coady wore the biggest smile in Wigan after scoring the match-winning goal on their arch-rivals’ ground.
The 21-year-old Liverpool product admitted, however, that his 82nd-minute goal for Huddersfield was something of a fluke.
It came after Nahki Wells had seen his near-post shot blocked but retrieved the ball and played it back to the midfield man on the left corner of the area.
Coady then curled it beyond the reach of Scott Carson into the top corner and it appeared to be a wonderfully-executed strike.
However, Coady confessed: “It was a cross. We had a couple of men in the box and I thought ‘if I can get it in here it might cause a bit of trouble’. It caused a bit more trouble than I thought.
“When it came to me, I hit it and at first I thought ‘oh, I’ve missed everyone here’, but then I saw it going and going and it ended in the net.
“It makes it even better, a St Helens lad scoring at Wigan. I only live five minutes down the road so it was nice to score, especially being a Saints follower.”
It may have been a lucky strike, but it was a replica of the one he scored in the 3-1 win at Wolves at the start of October, Town’s previous away victory before Saturday.
Coady admitted: “We are thrilled as a team, absolutely made up. It was a great team effort and the lads were fantastic.
“It was a massive win, but in the last few weeks we have been building a momentum, even at Middlesbrough, who are a very good side but where we thought we could have got something out of it.
“You saw the state of the (Wigan) pitch and it was tough for the lads to get the ball down so it was a bit of a fight but we deserved to win.”
Coady reserved special praise for Canadian newcomer David Edgar, signed from Birmingham until the end of the season and given a holding role in front of the back four.
“He was brilliant, but we all knew about him as he’s already had a great career and we knew what he would bring to the team.
“He broke up play, he won his headers, he was strong in the tackle and played the ball nice and simple.”
Former Burnley player Edgar had to depart with a touch of cramp near the end, but said: “It was a bit of a grind on a difficult pitch, but we dug it out and that’s what counts on the road.
“Playing in front of the defence is my preferred position. I’ve played in many positions throughout my career, but I do really enjoy playing there.”
The big shock when Town announced their team, however, was the inclusion of striker James Vaughan, wearing a protective face mask after fracturing a cheekbone and eye socket after an accidental collision midway through the first half of the 2-0 defeat at the Boro.
“To be fair, James got his mask made and trained on Friday and we were all shocked at that a bit, but he’s a fighter, competing for every ball, and last week when he got kicked in the head just showed how he puts himself about, but he is a massive presence for us up front.”
Vaughan, who has endured more injuries than most professionals, was less complimentary about his team-mate, joking about the goal: “It was a cross, I have as much chance of claiming it as him. He deserves it really, though, because he is a great professional but I don’t think he has ever actually meant to score, ever. But I’m sure he doesn’t care.”
Of his injury and determination to play, Vaughan said: “My eyesight is fine though you wouldn’t have guessed it (at Wigan). The specialist pretty much left it up to me. He told me what the risks were and I was happy to take them.
“I didn’t know until Saturday if the gaffer was going to let me play or not. I pretty much begged him and he put his faith in me and we got the result. Obviously I have missed a lot of football during my career so, given the opportunity to play, I want to be out there helping the lads out.”
Town’s third away win of the campaign left them 11 points clear of the drop zone, but Wigan firmly entrenched in it with only two home wins.
They did most of the pressing after the break on a pitch which did nothing to help either side, but Alex Smithies was well protected by Edgar and especially central defender Joel Lynch, the hosts’ frustration being compounded by the rejection of three penalty appeals, two for hands, and losing three players to various injuries.
However, Jacob Butterfield forced the one notable save of the match from Carson with a stinging 20-yard drive after the break.
Town also had the best opportunities in the first period, Wells hitting a first-timer from Butterfield’s low free-kick over the bar before seeing a goalbound header cleared off the line by Liam Ridgewell after Sean Scannell, Town’s most potent attacking outlet, had done well to get the better of Andrew Taylor and hook the ball over as Carson rushed across.
Town captain and central defender Mark Hudson also had his flick header from Butterfield’s corner headed off the line by Wigan striker Martyn Waghorn before the break.
Wigan Athletic: Carson, Perch, Barnett, Ridgewell, Taylor; McManaman (Delort 65), Kvist, Huws, McCann (Fortune 56); Waghorn (Cowie 56), McClean. Unused substitutes: Al Habsi, Boyce, Forshaw, Cosgrove.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies, Smith, Hudson, Lynch, Robinson; Edgar (Wallace 86); Scannell, Coady, Butterfield; Vaughan, Wells (Bunn 90). Unused substitutes: Allinson, Dixon, Lolley, Gobern, Majewski.
Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire).