Wigan Athletic proved too strong for managerless Fleetwood Town on Friday night, as they warmed up for their Championship return by coming out on top in a seven-goal thriller at Highbury Stadium.
Under the watchful eyes of Uwe Rosler, the favourite for the vacant managerial position at the League One club, David Ball gave Fleetwood a seventh minute advantage, turning in a low cross inside the six-yard box, which was swiftly cancelled out by Max Power’s drive just four minutes later.
A quick double after the half-hour mark from Luke Burke and Yanic Wildschut put Wigan in the driving seat at the half-time interval.
As the second-half commenced, the crowd were treated to three goals in ten minutes, two for Fleetwood, through Ball and Bobby Grant, sandwiched in between Michael Jacobs’ free-kick for the visitors.
In what was Town’s first game on home soil since the resignation of former boss Steven Pressley on Tuesday, Barry Nicholson took temporary charge of first-team affairs, and he named a strong side, which included Conor McLaughlin and Grant.
Wigan manager Gary Caldwell named new signings; Dan Burn, Jake Buxton and Alex Gilbey in a starting XI which was captained by Craig Morgan.
On a sun-kissed evening on the Fylde Coast, it was Fleetwood who created the inaugural chance after two minutes, when Ball connected with Ashley Hunter’s knockdown from McLaughlin’s lofted pass, though despite having only goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to beat, the striker shot into the side netting.
Wigan had two early openings of their own, inside the first five minutes of play, though both Gilbey and Power missed their respective sights on goal.
Ball wouldn’t have to wait too long to open the scoring, as he gave his side a seventh minute lead, when he got the better of defender Burn to bundle the ball beyond Jaaskelainen from Hunter’s low cross from the right corner of the box.
However, Wigan would restore parity after 11 minutes on the clock, following a neat interchange in passing play from David Perkins and Wildschut fell to Power, who arrowed an angled shot beyond the dive of ‘keeper Chris Neal.
The Latics added their second of the game after 32 minutes. Gilbey’s neat cutback from the right found Burke, whose deflected shot wrong-footed Neal and nestled into the net.
Caldwell’s side doubled their ascendancy in the game four minutes later, after Dutch midfielder Wildschut manoeuvred space just outside the box after side-stepping Pond, to divert the ball powerfully into the bottom right corner.
Hunter had the final chance of the half, but could only bend a long-range strike away from goal.
Ball would add his and the Cod Army’s second goal after 50 minutes, as he tussled back possession on the edge of the area to guide a low effort into the corner past the 41-year-old Jaaskelainen.
Just two minutes after Ball’s goal, substitute Jacobs restored Wigan’s two-goal cushion, with a dipping free-kick over the wall which left Neal rooted to the spot, as he could only watch the ball drop into the bottom right-corner.
Fleetwood reduced the deficit once again with 55 minutes played, after Ball was brought down inside the area, referee Andy Madley awarded a spot-kick, which industrious forward Grant dispatched the kick into the corner.
In the dying embers of the game, substitute Devante Cole went close, trickling a shot into the side netting, before Buxton cleared his goal-bound effort to safety.
Both sides will now turn their attention to the forthcoming English Football League campaign, which begins on Saturday, August 6.
Fleetwood travel to Northampton Town at Sixfields in League One, while Wigan are on the road as they return to the second-tier with a trip to Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
Fleetwood Town starting line-up: Neal; McLaughlin, Duckworth, Pond (C), Eastham, B Grant, Kip, Jonsson, Trialist, Hunter, Ball.
Wigan Athletic starting line-up: Jaaskelainen; Perkins, Power, Gilbey, Daniels, Morsy, Grigg, Buxton, Morgan (C), Burke, Wildschut.