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Teenager James ‘outstanding’ says Cook as Wigan strive for safety

Paul Cook heaped praise on Reece James after the Chelsea loanee helped Wigan to a battling point from a 2-2 Championship draw at Bristol City.

The 19-year-old midfielder demonstrated why he was selected for the Championship team of the year by scoring a stunning strike, beating Max O’Leary with a swerving 37th-minute shot from 30 yards.

Matty Taylor then scored one goal and set up another as City stormed back after the break, only for substitute Anthony Pilkington to level in stoppage time and deny Lee Johnson’s men a third straight win since the international break.

Not for the first time this season, Cook was thrilled with James’ performance, while also hailing the battling qualities of his relegation-threatened team.

“Reece was outstanding and his goal epitomises where he is as a lad,” he said.

“He is so self-confident, and that is backed up by his ability and work ethic. All season he has been showing people that he has a very strong career ahead of him, and we are delighted to be playing a small part in his progression.”

Assessing the overall performance, Cook added: “We looked a threat all afternoon in terms of creating chances and a draw was the least we deserved.

“But the performance summed up our season away from home. We have moments of madness in a game that see us go from a positive position to a negative one.

“At the level we are playing, learning on the job is tough. When you give teams goals the atmosphere in the stadium changes as it did today.

“We have to be stronger and more aggressive. But with six games to go we are pleased with a point at a tough place to visit and we will move on from here.”

The result means Wigan are now just two points above the relegation zone with six matches remaining, while City dropped to sixth in their hunt for a play-off place and have seven games to play.

Johnson was clearly frustrated at conceding the late leveller. He said: “We should have defended better with only a minute left but that is Championship football.

“In midweek we could have been three down at Middlesbrough and ended up winning 1-0. Today we had chances to put the game to bed before the equaliser.

“We had to make attacking changes after a poor first half and, while they worked, it also meant we didn’t have enough defensive players on hand to protect our lead.”

Following a run in which City took just two points from five games prior to the international break, Johnson is at least satisfied with the response since.

“We have still taken seven points from three games and are well placed to achieve our play-off aim,” Johnson added.

“There was a sign of tiredness after a tough week on the road. I wasn’t happy with our first-half display and needed to freshen things up.

“In the end we are disappointed not to have managed the game better but we will regroup and go again for a very big game against West Brom on Tuesday.”