Wigan 1 Reading 0

  • By: Ian Parkes, PA Sport
  • Last Updated: October 8 2012, 20:00 BST

Emile Heskey scored his first goal for six months to send a message to England manager Steve McClaren he is still alive and kicking.

Valencia tries to make progress.

Heskey's international career has been on the backburner for some time, with the last of his 43 appearances way back in the Euro 2004 finals when he came on as a substitute against France.

But Wigan's £5.5million club-record signing chose the occasion of his 500th career club match to prove he can still cut it at Premiership level, scoring the only goal of the game seven minutes from half-time.

In his 12 years as a professional, Heskey has now scored 124 goals overall at an average of one in every four, a record many feel should be far better.

Wigan manager Paul Jewell is convinced he can succeed where others have failed in the past, and that is to get the best out of Heskey who has often been regarded as something of a lightweight, despite his heavyweight frame.

The 28-year-old certainly put himself about against Reading, and but for better finishing perhaps could have finished the game with a hat-trick before limping off 14 minutes from time with an ankle problem.

At least his one sure-footed finish enabled Wigan to get off the mark this season after opening up with a defeat at Newcastle last weekend.

They were deserved points too against a Royals side who very rarely threatened until late on, and who have now lost their last two games after starting life in the Premiership with their come-from-behind heroics against Middlesbrough a week ago.

Aside from two edge-of-the-area drives from Leroy Lita, the opening 45 minutes were convincingly ruled by Jewell's side.

The first half, though, proved bitter-sweet for the Latics manager as Heskey's opener was tempered by Henri Camara sustaining a hamstring injury.

The Senegal striker had set the tone with his pace and incisiveness in his 23 minutes on the field, and thankfully for Jewell his loss did not upset his side's rhythm.

Wigan were the more fluent and creative, threatening as early as the fourth minute with a Camara flick feeding Heskey, resulting in an 18-yard first-time shot that flashed past Marcus Hahnemann's left-hand post.

Reading responded instantly with Lita forcing Chris Kirkland into a despairing save low to his right, with the England international fortunate Fitz Hall was on hand to clear the rebound.

Lita again tried his luck soon after, but this time Kirkland was firmly behind the ball, and from that moment Wigan were firmly in control.

Sadly, one of the best players on view in Camara was forced off in the 23rd minute after chasing a through-ball from Lee McCulloch.

Camara's efforts at least resulted in a corner, and prior to his substitution, he saw Heskey rattle the crossbar with a powerful header in meeting Luis Valencia's inswinging delivery.

His replacement David Connolly proved no slouch either, and he was instrumental in setting up the Latics' next chance in the 27th minute.

Jewell's side easily prised open the Reading defence, with Connolly setting up an overlapping Valencia inside the right-hand edge of the area.

On a season-long loan from Espanyol, Ecuador winger Valencia fired in a right-foot drive that resulted in American Hahnemann making a superb save.

Despite the odd mundane patch, it was Wigan who always appeared the more creative and industrious, and those two assets paid off in the 39th minute with Heskey breaking the deadlock.

Paul Scharner, Denny Landzaat and McCulloch all combined, with the latter's through-ball feeding Heskey for a flick past the advancing Hahnemann.

Fortunately for Jewell, the interval failed to hinder his side's momentum.

The Royals created a chance of note in the 54th minute with Ivar Ingimarsson flicking a near-post header wide of the far post from Nicky Shorey's corner, but Wigan responded in kind.

McCulloch initially rippled the side-netting with a rasping drive after quickly latching on to a throw from Leighton Baines.

Within a minute Wigan should have wrapped up the victory as Heskey was again sent clear, this time via a combination of McCulloch and Holland international Landzaat.

Heskey showed intuition in lobbing the advancing Hahnemann, only to watch in despair as his 16-yard effort landed on the roof of the net.

After departing the scene in the 76th minute to rapturous applause, Hahnemann then denied substitute Graham Kavanagh in a one-on-one situation.

Then with two minutes remaining Reading almost stole a point, only for Kirkland to make a point-blank save from Lita.

Teams

Wigan Kirkland, Boyce, Hall, De Zeeuw, Baines, Valencia, Scharner, Landzaat (Kavanagh 78), McCulloch, Camara (Connolly 20), Heskey (Chimbonda 76).

Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Jackson.

Booked: Heskey, Scharner.

Goals: Heskey 38.

Reading Hahnemann, Murty, Ingimarsson, Sodje, Shorey,Ki-Hyeon (Hunt 69), Sidwell, Harper (Long 87),Convey (Oster 64), Doyle, Lita.

Subs Not Used: Stack, Gunnarsson.

Booked: Ki-Hyeon, Sodje.

Att: 14,636

Ref: M Riley (W Yorkshire).