A WOEFUL first half ruined any chance Wigan Athletic had of getting anything against Derby County as they went down 3-1 at the DW Stadium.
The visitors were 3-0 up inside half an hour when a combination of defensive howlers and sloppy play gifted Steve McClaren’s side the points with an hour to go.
To be fair to Derby though, it wasn’t just poor play from their hosts which won the game for them. They were quick and out-witted Latics, dominating in midfield as they were first to every ball.
Wigan picked up after the break with Nick Powell scoring what turned out to be a consolation goal but the damage was done, bringing to an end a miserable eight days for Owen Coyle’s side who have lost three on the bounce at the DW Stadium in that time.
On loan Manchester United striker Will Keane made his Latics debut while Ivan Ramis was handed his first start since January following a lengthy injury lay-off.
The Spaniard got off to the worst start possible though, giving away a free-kick which led to Craig Bryson scoring inside three minutes.
The DW Stadium was left in further dismay, as were the Latics players, when they then found themselves 2-0 down 12 minutes later.
A poor pass from Ben Watson inside his own half gifted Simon Dawkins the ball. The attacker, a former Wigan trialist, took it into the area and placed it beyond Lee Nicholls,
Latics tried to make their way back into the game but they were sluggish to say the least going forward. Nick Powell had a half chance from 20 yards before Emmerson Boyce had a decent penalty shout turned away when he was tugged down following a Watson corner.
Things were about to get worse before they got better, though.
Derby looked confident and were by no means sitting on their lead. First Richard Keogh’s header from a free-kick was just inches over the bar before they got a penalty.
Chris Martin took the ball into the box from the right side and was brought down by James McClean. The former Norwich man brushed himself down and calmly slotted the spot kick into the net to give the visitors a 3-0 lead inside 30 minutes.
Boos rang around the DW with an immediate reaction needed from the players but they offered up very little going into the break.
Watson was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch after a high and late challenge on Johnny Russell but the referee only produced a yellow card.
Stephen Crainey did come close for Latics on the stroke of half-time when he hit a curling free-kick onto the crossbar but that was about as good as it got.
Boos rang around the DW as the half-time whistle sounded with the ground left stunned by what they had just seen.
An immediate response after the break was needed if Latics were to stand any chance of getting themselves back into the game. Owen Coyle brought on Grant Holt and Roger Espinoza to up the tempo and within five minutes there was a shred of hope.
Boyce put a perfect cross in from the right which was nodded firmly home by Powell. This lifted the noise levels somewhat but Latics would need plenty more to have a chance of salvaging anything.
A clearly buoyed Wigan continued to rally, leaving many to wonder where this urgency was in the first half.
James McArthur came close after poking McClean’s cross just wide before Latics hit the crossbar again. Holt crossed well with Leon Barnett waiting as the ball ping-ponged off two players before hitting the woodwork.
Derby’s John Eustace was then let off by the referee when he looked to have elbowed Powell but the referee brandished a yellow card. The former Stoke and Watford midfielder was roped off a couple of minutes later.
Latics continued to press with Espinoza coming close with a thunderous effort from 25 yards before Powell headed over the bar.
Wigan were knocking but couldn’t find that elusive second goal that would have given them a shot of snatching something from the game.
Marc-Antoine Fortune replaced Callum McManaman as Coyle tried to bolster Wigan’s attacking options but Derby defended well.
Barnett came close with a solid header but the goalkeeper produced a great save to deny Barnett as the clock ticked down before Holt came close.
The gap was just too much though and the visitors hung on for a well-deserved victory.
Latics: Nicholls, Boyce, Ramis, Barnett, Crainey, McManaman, McArthur, Watson, McClean, Powell, Keane
Subs: Carson, Shotton, McCann, Espinoza (for Watson 45), Gomez, Holt (for Keane 45), Fortune (for McManaman 84)
Derby County: Grant, Forsyth, Bryson, Keogh, Martin, Russell, Eustace, Hughes, Buxton, Dawkins, Wisdom
Subs: Legzdins, Hendrick (for Eustace 62), Davies, Sammon, Bennett (for Russell 58), Cisse (for Hughes 85), Keane