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Report: Wigan Athletic Under-23s 1 Blues Under-23s 11

Blues Under-23s rounded off their regular Professional Development League campaign with a devastating victory against Wigan Athletic on Monday afternoon in Lancashire.

Steve Spooner's side were already guaranteed a place in the PDL's end of season play-offs later this week against Bristol City, but ensured they’ll go into that game in confident form after coming from a goal down to win in double figures.

In wet and blustery conditions at the Wigan Athletic Training Ground, it was the home side who went in front through Tom Costello, after he had rounded Blues keeper Alfie Brooks outside the area.

But two goals in six minutes saw Blues turn things around, Jayden Reid and Kyle Hurst grabbing deserved strikes before free-scoring full-back Ryan Burke lashed home his fifth goal in six outings.

Blues continued to dominate after the break, Joe Redmond headed home unchallenged after 50 minutes to increase the lead before Remi Walker lashed home from 25 yards for Blues’ fifth.

A sixth and seventh quickly followed, substitutes Josh Andrews and Caolan Boyd-Munce added to the fast-growing scoreline. Soldevila hit an eighth before Redmond, Walker and Boyd-Munce grabbed their second goals of the game.

It was tough on a youthful Wigan outfit, who started ten Under-18s players and one from their Under-16s squad ahead of another PDL fixture against Sheffield United tomorrow.

As the rain began to lash down in the North West, Burke led Blues’ first drive forward with barely a minute on the clock. The full-back found space down the left-hand side before drilling a low ball into the box which was touched harmlessly goal-bound by Soldevila.

It was a sign of things to come and Blues’ fast-paced start continued. A first real chance on goal came after five minutes and Burke was once again involved, floating a cross towards the back post which was crashed into the side-netting by the on-rushing Geraldo Bajrami.

A first effort on target came after 12 minutes when Jayden Reid was slipped in down the left but his effort was struck straight at Tom Watson, a first of several impressive stops from the Tics youngster.

Despite the bright start and dominance on the ball, it was the home side who took the lead against the run of play after 17 minutes. A lofted ball deflected between Blues’ centre-half pairing providing Tom Costello the chance to round an on-rushing Brooks and give his side the early advantage.

But it did not take long for Steve Spooner's side to draw level. Just two minutes after they’d gone behind, Soldevila’s clever reverse pass down the right-hand side played in Reid, who emphatically crashed home to restore parity.

Blues continued to threaten, Alfie Chang fired over before the turnaround was completed on 25 minutes, Hurst sweeping home from the left-hand side.

It should have been three when Reid found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper after Wigan captain James Carragher allowed a long ball to bounce over his head, but Watson was out quickly to turn Reid’s effort behind for a corner.

The home side rarely threatened in the opening 45 but Alfie Brooks was called into action eight minutes before half-time, sprinting off his line to prevent McGurk from nipping in after a pass was slipped in behind Josh Williams.

But it was Blues who would increase their lead before the break through thanks to Burke. More good play down the left-hand side saw passes twice exchanged between him and Hurst before the Blues full-back struck the ball across the keeper.

A final chance of the half fell to Hurst, as he cantered through the Latics defence down the left, only to see his effort deflect wide.

Half-time: Wigan Athletic Under-23s 1 Blues Under-23s 11

Blues stepped it up a gear in the second-half and just thirty seconds after play had resumed, Chang drove fiercely at the Wigan defence before unleashing a strike at goal which was tipped around the post. From the resulting corner, which had hung up in the swirling wind, Soldevila ghosted in at the back post but his effort was also saved by Watson.

The opportunities were a sign of things to come though and on 50 minutes, Blues had their fourth. Walker’s corner from the left-hand side was floated towards the back post, where Blues captain Remond was able to leap unattended to nod home his first of the day.

Walker quickly went from provider to goalscorer four minutes later, as he was given space to run at a tiring home defence, before unleashing a right-footed effort past the scrambling Watson for the fifth.

Blues’ dominance allowed for second-half changes; Andrews was the first, being given half an hour after replacing Hurst. Just a minute after his introduction, the imposing forward had his first opportunity of the game, nodding a left-footed delivery over the crossbar.

Boyd-Munce was introduced on the hour as he continued his recovery from injury and the Northern Irishman did not have to wait long to get into the thick of the action. Two minutes after he came on, Blues had their sixth. Chang picked a pin-point pass and slotted Andrews through the heart of the Wigan defence, with the recent Harrogate Town loanee making no mistake and slamming home.

Blues’ ruthless dominance in the final third continued, Boyd-Munce grabbing the seventh with a nice touch and finish after finding space on the penalty spot.

With the away side smelling blood, Soldevila became the eighth Blues scorer 20 minutes from time, beautifully curling home a left-footed effort from the edge of the area, before Redmond added his second.

The Blues captain duly made way after the strike and on came Mitchell Roberts, who had also spent time at Harrogate in the second-half of the season.

A tenth came from the penalty spot after 84 minutes. Boyd-Munce’s clever pass found Walker in the box who was brought to ground and the youngster picked himself up and duly slotted home his second of the game, firing low to the keeper’s right as the weather once again took a turn for the worse.

There was time for an eleventh, Boyd-Munce grabbing his second of the game to wrap up a truly comprehensive victory ahead of Friday afternoon's play-off game against Bristol City.

Blues: Brooks, Williams, Bajrami, Redmond (Roberts 75), Burke, Walker, Thompson-Sommers (Boyd-Munce 61), Chang, Reid, Soldevilla, Hurst (Andrews 58).

Substitutes not used: Dos Reis, George

Wigan Athletic: Watson, Winstanley, Snell, Lloyd, Carragher, McHugh, McGurk (Welsh 67), McGee, Costello, Sze, Brown.

Substitutes not used: Tickle, Smith, Brooks, Pinnington

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