Warren Joyce could not hide his disappointment after a ‘poor, cheap goal’ proved to be the only difference between Wigan Athletic and promotion-chasing Derby County.
Latics gave just as good, if not more, than they got for the vast majority of an entertaining encounter at the DW Stadium.
But they were unable to respond to Bradley Johnson’s 15th-minute header from Thomas Ince’s free-kick.
Max Power was unfortunate to hit the bar with a header on the hour mark, although Derby will also point to Johnny Russell hitting the post in the first half in a game of surprisingly few real chances.
“We’re obviously disappointed to lose the game,” Joyce acknowledged.
“I thought in the first half we had a lot of possession without a lot of purpose in our play.
“We could have been a bit braver, get on the half-turn, and get in between the lines which was something we’d worked on during the week.
“In saying that, I don’t think they caused us a lot of problems.
“And it’s such a poor, cheap goal, if you follow it all the way back.
“We lost possession ourselves on the halfway line, which leads to the free-kick, and a really soft, basic error means we’re 1-0 down.
“Those are the ones that are the hardest to take, and they’ve been happening in the home games.
“It’s not liked we’ve been carved open by very good sides.
“We’ve just been giving teams one-goal starts.”
Not even the second-half introduction of Will Grigg, Adam Le Fondre and Kaiyne Woolery could tip the balance back in Wigan’s favour, with Joyce admitting the ‘gung-ho’ approach in the final quarter may actually have been counter-productive.
“I thought the commitment was good in both the first half and second half, and the bravery and the shape was good,” he assessed.
“The players did exactly what we talked about at half-time to stay in the game, and I thought for half an hour during that period we deserved a goal.
“We’ve thrown on the artillery at the end to try to chase the game, and I thought that made us lose a little bit.
“Prior to that there’d been a method to our play, but for the last 15 minutes you’re just chasing it with a lot of forwards on rather than having a purpose to our play.”
Latics are now without a win, or even a goal, in their last four home games, in stark contrast to their away form that has seen them go five games unbeaten.
Joyce, though, denied that was down to any difference in tactical approach.
“The tactics are exactly the same, it’s nothing to do with that,” he said.
“The fact we haven’t scored today...we could have scored, but we haven’t. It’s as simple as that really.
“It may be that the opposition sit back (when we’re at home) and we’ve got to do a little bit more in possession, and be braver.
“The players are bound to be anxious, but if you want to talk about bravery...you look at (Jake) Buxton, (Stephen) Warnock, (Craig) Morgan throwing their heads in where it hurts, and the bravery is just as much if not more so for attacking players to keep taking the ball and trying to make something happen.
“I thought we showed a lot of that in the second half,. and you can’t fault the effort of the lads.
“I thought there was a method to our play that deserved something, certainly more than we’ve come away with.
“I’m obviously down, because I don’t like losing. But the manner of the performance gave me a lot of plusses.
“I was critical of the way we didn’t cut them open in the first half, but I thought we did that in the second half.”