Derby County 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Gavin Massey gave Latics a perfect start at Derby
Gavin Massey gave Latics a perfect start at Derby

Wigan Athletic couldn’t take advantage of Gavin Massey’s first-half goal - his first for over six months - as out-of-form Derby County fought back in the second period to pinch all three points.

Massey’s only previous goal this term had come in the 3-0 victory at Stoke in August, which remains Wigan’s solitary win on the road in 2018-19.

And hopes were high at the interval that lightning might strike twice - which would have opened up a six-point buffer over the bottom three ahead of Saturday’s trip to Reading.

However, Derby were given a lifeline just after the hour mark with substitute Mason Bennett hooking a miraculous effort from Scott Malone’s cross over the despairing dive of Jamie Jones.

And it went from bad to worse for Latics when Malone popped up at the far post to turn in Duane Holmes’ strike, with Jones unable to react.

Latics had their chances to kill off the game before Derby’s response, but Leon Clarke was again unable to convert some decent opportunities in front of goal.

And Wigan’s wretched form away from the DW Stadium continues to hamper their efforts to consolidate in the Championship.

It was a relatively uninspiring opening quarter, with the best chance falling to the visitors.

Clarke crossed from the left towards Massey, only for Malone to stick out a leg and send the ball inches wide of his own post with Scott Carson helpless.

But Derby weren’t so fortunate on 25 minutes, when Latics did manage to take the lead.

Michael Jacobs was the architect, breaking up a Derby move deep in his own half and leading a classic counter-attack.

He held off the second last defender before picking the perfect moment to play in Massey, who slipped the ball past Carson at the near post.

Clarke came within inches of making it 2-0 almost immediately, his flick header from Nathan Byrne’s cross somehow missing the far corner.

The visitors were forced into a reshuffle on 33 minutes when Danny Fox had to be helped off, with Kal Naismith - surprisingly left out - slotting in at left-back.

Sam Morsy picked up his customary booking for going in late on Bradley Johnson, who exacted retribution on the breaking Massey within a couple of minutes.

Latics ended the half well and Jacobs might have done better with a header from Byrne’s cross, only to send it straight at Carson.

The visitors managed to weather the Derby storm at the beginning of the second period, with Frank Lampard forced into a double change on 57 minutes to try and get back into the game.

On came Holmes and Bennett, for Florian Jozefzoon and Jack Marriott, and the change reaped dividends within five minutes.

Malone sent over a speculative cross from the left, and only Bennett will know whether his overhead flick was worthy of ‘Goal of the Season’ or an outrageous fluke.

Nevertheless, the hosts were level and, with the crowd now back onside, they threw everything at their opponents.

Harry Wilson saw a shot deflected over before being booked for diving, with Jacobs fizzing the ball across goal at the other end in a rare sortie.

Jones did well to tip over a Holmes shot, with Latics sending on Nick Powell for Massey to try and inject some inspiration.

Byrne, getting plenty of joy down the right, saw a cross flicked wide by Clarke, before Josh Windass joined the big man up front at the expense of Jacobs.

However, Derby were committing more and more men forward in search of a winner, and it duly arrived 12 minutes from time.

It was a well-crafted goal, too, with Wildon teeing up Holmes, whose cross-shot was turned in at the back post by left-back Malone.

It was now virtual one-way traffic at this post, and substitute David Nugent almost made it 3-1 right at the death, only for Jones to make a fine save right on the line.