Huddersfield Town 1 Wigan Athletic 4: Robins will take some positives from Town’s second-half display

MARK ROBINS’S first game in charge of Huddersfield Town was put firmly in the shade by a sunshine display from Wigan, who made light of their Premier League strife to ease to victory.

Town's Peter Clarke battles with Wigan's Arouna Kone.

It ensured honours were even after the sporting double-header between the towns of Huddersfield and Wigan, whose rugby league team were turned over by the Giants 24 hours before yesterday’s fifth-round tie.

Roberto Martinez had taken Wigan to Tenerife for some midweek warm-weather training, and pictures of his players lying by the pool appeared on Twitter.

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But his side were thoroughly in business mode at Town, whose hopes of securing a place in the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since 1971-72 were comprehensively dashed.

It ensured Robins suffered his second exit from the cup at the hands of top-flight opposition after the Coventry side he previously managed bowed out at the third-round stage against Tottenham at White Hart Lane last month.

As with that 3-0 defeat for the Sky Blues, there was not much doubt about yesterday’s outcome with goals from Arouna Kone (2) and the top-notch duo of Callum McManaman and James McArthur enabling the Latics to book their berth in the last eight of the cup for only the second time in their history – the previous occasion was in 1987.

In his pre-match musings, Robins – unveiled as manager on Thursday – spoke about the manner of his side’s performance being of paramount importance.

What he witnessed from his side was somewhat of a mixed bag and he will have certainly learned plenty about his charges ahead of what is a 15-game ‘season’ to save their skins in the Championship, with 18th-placed Town just three points above the side occupying the final relegation position, buoyant White Rose neighbours Barnsley.

The league is Robins’s priority and his side are back in action tomorrow at Nottingham Forest before hosting Ipswich Town on Saturday.

While his side’s first-half display was pretty limp, he at least was afforded some positives in the shape of an improved second-half performance, with the introduction of substitutes James Vaughan and Lee Novak, who netted with a fine header, allied to the showing of full-back Calum Woods giving him something tangible to take from proceedings.

In his first team selection, Robins made four changes from the side who surprised Leicester in midweek, with captain Peter Clarke – fully recovered from concussion – replacing Murray Wallace at the back, and Alex Smithies, Jack Hunt and Neil Danns also coming in, for Ian Bennett, Paul Dixon and Jordan Sinnott respectively.

Five players who started the Latics’ previous game at Chelsea lined up from the off, with Martinez’s starting XI comprising seven nationalities and just one Englishman.

Passing wise, it become obvious that due care and attention on a pockmarked surface not helped by the Super League encounter the previous day would be required, with Wigan posting the first salvo on five minutes. McManaman began his outstanding afternoon by manufacturing a decent position on the left before flighting over an inviting cross, which was headed over, under pressure, by Jordi Gomez.

Cajoled on the sidelines by their new manager, Town’s early industry was pronounced with their first opportunity seeing veteran striker Alan Lee – who played up front a decade ago with Robins at Rotherham United – outmuscling the visiting rearguard after latching onto Woods’s deep cross before heading off target.

Innovation, as opposed to perspiration, was lacking from Town in a largely quiet half hour before Wigan contrived a thing of beauty to take the lead.

A deft pass from McArthur sent McManaman clear on 31 minutes, with his subtle movement outfoxing Jack Hunt, and the young winger kept his cool as he homed in on goal, steering a lovely curling shot past Smithies.

Wigan’s domination of possession continued with the visitors doubling their tally nine minutes later thanks to more adept approach play.

Another incisive move down the left exposed the Town rearguard with McArthur again supplying the dangerous McManaman, whose pull-back was met by Gomez. His close-range effort was blocked on the line and Ivory Coast international Kone nonchalantly bundled in the rebound.

Before Town were afforded the sanctuary of half-time to regroup and refocus, they went close to pulling one back with an enticing cross from Woods almost converted at the back post by loan midfielder Danns.

At the interval, veteran Lee and young midfielder Chris Atkinson were replaced by Vaughan and Novak, with the two substitutes giving Town a two-pronged forward line as the hosts switched from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 formation.

The move almost yielded an instant dividend with Vaughan seizing upon loose play by Paul Scharner before seeing his fierce low strike beaten away by goalkeeper Joel Robles.

But any hopes of a Town comeback were torpedoed four minutes before the hour mark, with a classy strike from McArthur sealing a consummate performance from the silky Scot.

The home fans were finally given something to cheer six minutes later. Another threatening centre from Woods was this time converted by the head of Novak.

A glancing header from fellow substitute Vaughan was flashed wide following Hunt’s cross, but the final word belonged to the visitors, with Kone profiting from Anthony Gerrard’s error before blasting high into the roof of the net.