The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Si­mon Smed­ley

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.”

PIC­TURE: Craig Gal­loway/ProS­ports

HEAD BOY: Bradley John­son af­ter scor­ing the win­ning header, inset

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