BRAD KEEPS RAMS FIVE AND KICKING
STEVE McClaren has been through enough Decembers in management to know that any points – no matter how and where they come from – should be treasured over the Christmas period.
This wasn’t the prettiest performance from the Rams, but McClaren’s side had enough about them to defend stoutly and go on to secure a fifth straight Championship win.
And former England boss McClaren acknowledged as much. He said: “We made hard work of that, but it’s a very good win at a tough place to come.
“I’m not really sure why that was, but in the end we’ve ground out the result.
“It is getting to that time of the season when you do have to do that, and we defended brilliantly overall.
“For some reason we took our foot off the pedal after we went in front.
“Wigan put us under pressure during the last ten or 15 minutes and we did defend for our lives, so credit to the players for that.
“Sometimes you have to win ugly. That’s what we did here.”
The Rams enjoyed the better of the first period at the DW Stadium and struck the all-important goal before the break.
They took the lead after 16 minutes, with Bradley Johnson rising highest to head home Tom Ince’s precise clipped cross.
Some poor defending led to the visitors almost doubling their lead six minutes later. Luke Garbutt’s intended backpass was woefully short, but as Johnny Russell nipped in to intercept, his close-range effort struck the post.
Wigan’s best opportunity came from Max Power, whose rasping drive was parried by alert keeper Scott Carson.
The hosts pushed on after the restart, with skipper Stephen Warnock seeing a shot blocked and Garbutt’s intended in-swinging cross from 35 yards fizzing a whisker past the post.
As the Rams defended resolutely, they were saved by the woodwork with 20 minutes to go. Warnock flung in a fine a cross for Power, who rose brilliantly before nodding against the bar.
After that, the Rams twice threatened on the break, while Wigan maintained their forward push.
Yanic Wildschut – compared to Cristiano Ronaldo by boss Warren Joyce during the week – was denied by a smart Carson stop, before seeing a strike deflected onto the roof of the net as time eventually ran out.
It’s now four home league games without a goal for Wigan – they haven’t registered at the DW since September – while Joyce has suffered defeat in two of his first four games in charge.
He said: “It’s always going to be hard if you give the opposition a goal start.
“It was a really soft goal, a poor one from our point of view. Maybe sometimes you need to be braver.
“The commitment was good. In the second half we really drove the game, but we need to set higher standards for ourselves.
“It is a difficult job I’ve got here, but there were still quite a number of positives to take from this performance.
“We’ve been beaten by the odd goal, but we’ve got to pick ourselves up and go again.
“We’ve worked hard, tackled and closed down, but poor defending early in the game has cost us.”
HEAD BOY: Bradley Johnson after scoring the winning header, inset