It was the home side who had the better of the opening twenty minutes though they failed to trouble Sean Lake in the Reds’ goal, with Stephen Kay’s long range free kick that sailed over the bar, their only real shot in anger.
They took the lead though on twenty three minutes when Ritchie Livingston slipped through the back four to collect Andrew Neafcy’s through ball and rounded Lake before finishing in the far corner from a tight angle.
Maybe it was the jolt the Reds needed as Steven Williams skipped and danced his way to the byline but unfortunately there was no-one at the back post to turn in his ball across the face of the goal. However, the Reds were back on level terms within five minutes as Lawless collected a throw in, turned into the area and with a step over, brought the foul out of Mike Wood before stepping up to the penalty spot to send Jason Foulds the wrong way.
Suddenly the Reds had found a sharpness that had been lacking and a quick counterattack saw Williams release James Buckley down the left flank but the midfielder’s shot drifted wide of the far post. Buckley shot high over on the turn as Wigan failed to deal with a Tomas Stewart long throw in and striker Steve Jones’ accuracy failed him, when from a narrowing angle and with only Foulds to beat, he blasted wildly over the bar.
It was Lake though who ensured that the score would remain level at the break as he tipped Joseph Hull’s shot over the bar.
Two minutes after the restart the Reds took the lead through Lawless’ second strike of the night. Buckley released Shaun Harris down the left flank in a rare foray forward and the left back’s low cross was collected by Jones, who laid the ball off to Lawless to finish in the far corner.
A minute later a failure in basic defending almost cost the home side a third as Nevil Picton met Stewart’s long throw in on the corner of the six yard box but his back header dropped agonisingly wide of the far upright.
Picton soon found himself with another opportunity to claim his first goal for the club but fired two yards over the bar from just inside the box.
Having lost both Liam Loughlin and Steve Williams to injury, the Reds found it difficult to maintain possession but they were rarely troubled by the home side. Brain Hatton had their best chance when the Reds failed to clear a Phil Johnson corner but Lake would not be beaten, tipping the ball over the bar with a fine save.
Ionut ‘Danny’ Cuciorva had a glorious chance to make the final ten minutes a comfortable end to the match for the Reds but somehow he put the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy after Buckley had unselfishly squared the ball to him.
When Buckley received his second yellow card of the evening in injury time, the home side were given one final chance to find an equaliser but the Reds solidly defended the free kick and held out to take all three points.
Wigan Robin Park 1-2 AFC Liverpool
Livingstone 23′ Lawless (p) 28′, 47
Photo courtesy of Dave Williams