Warren Joyce was once again left to bemoan ‘a little bit of a lack in quality’ in the final third as Wigan Athletic fought out a goalless draw with Preston at the DW.
Latics recorded a second clean sheet on the bounce, but were frustrated in their attempts to break through at the other end.
They survived a scare on nine minutes when Omar Bogle conceded a penalty for a foul on Callum Robinson.
But goalkeeper Matt Gilks - making his home debut - twice got his team-mate out of trouble, saving Jordan Hugill’s penalty and then, even more impressively, the rebound from the same player.
At the other end, though, Latics failed to make opposition goalkeeper Chris Maxwell work as the Championship’s lowest scorers drew another frustrating blank.
“There was a lot of good defending in there from both teams,” acknowledged Joyce.
I thought their penalty was harsh
“I thought there was a little bit of a lack of quality, in the final ball from us at time.
“But that’s the hardest thing to do in football, and the opposition is obviously trying to stop you playing.
“I just thought if the final ball, the final pass, was a little bit better, we’d have had more opportunities to score.
“It was a hard-fought game - not a lot of clear-cut chances, but a lot of effort, endeavour, commitment, fight.
“Probably it was a fair result.”
Joyce believed his men were ‘harshly’ treated by referee Chris Kavanagh who, after awarding North End their spot-kick, failed to give one at the other end when Bogle was upended by Paul Huntington.
“I thought theirs was maybe a harsh penalty, Omar was just backing in, trying to get the ball,” the Latics boss assessed.
“I think if it was in open play, around their box, it could have been a free-kick for us.
“I thought it was more that than the other way round.
“Likewise, at the other end...I thought it was a stonewall penalty in their box for us.”
Despite Burton’s win over Norwich, the gap between Latics and safety remains at two points, although fourth-bottom Bristol City have a game in hand.
It’s not, however, something Joyce will be losing any sleep over.
“We can’t do anything about the others,” he recognised.
“I wasn’t even aware of the results until you kindly informed me just now.
“We can only be concerned with ourselves, and trying to win the games that we play.
“And I don’t think we could have done any more to win the game.
“It’s just that last bit of quality in the final third - and that’s why certain players get paid fortunes.
“It’s certainly not through lack of effort. It just didn’t quite happen for us on the day.”
Joyce reserved special praise for Gilks - a January signing from Rangers - who has now kept clean sheets on each of his two starts for the club.
“We tried to get Matt at the start of the window - it was one that was ongoing through the month,” revealed Joyce.
“He fits in with the kind of man you want to bring in to the football club.
“You want good pro’s, good men, good leaders, self-motivated, who want to do well for the team.”
He was also pleased with on-loan Fulham midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe - making his first start - who showed some good touches down the left-hand side after replacing the injured Michael Jacobs.
“I thought Tunners did well - he showed really good levels of fitness considering he hasn’t played for so long,” added Joyce.
“He’s adapted well to the training, he’s worked his socks off, he’s had to be patient and he’s took his chance.”