Steve McClaren admitted Derby County had to ‘grind out’ a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Wigan Athletic.
The Rams recorded a fifth win on the spin thanks to Bradley Johnson’s 15th-minute header, after which Latics dominated the game and were perhaps unfortunate not to find a leveller.
“I think we deserved it - we just made hard work of it,” argued McClaren.
“We had a great start, and for some reason we kind of took our foot off the pedal when we needed to go up.
“We knew this would be a difficult place to come, and when we didn’t manage to get the second goal, the last 10-15 minutes were always going to be a bit nervy.
“We defended for our lives, we got in some good blocks and headers, and that’s got us the result.
“You’re not going to play well every week, and it’s getting to a time - December, January, February - where you have to grind out results.
“It’s not always going to go the way you want it.”
For all Wigan’s pressure in the second half, goalkeeper Scott Carson - returning to the DW for the first time since leaving in the summer 2015 - barely had a save to make.
“We stopped the crosses well, when the ball did come in we defended it well,” acknowledged McClaren.
“Obviously they had the one effort that hit the bar in the second half, but we could point to Johnny Russell hitting the post in the first half.
“We had to win ugly, but we ground out the result and it’s a very good three points that takes us into next week.”