Derby County suffered their first defeat in ten Sky Bet Championship fixtures, as Jean Beausejour’s emphatic strike in the 69th minute sealed a narrow victory for Uwe Rosler’s Wigan Athletic.
The last time the Rams tasted defeat was at the beginning of November when they went down 2-1 to Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
However, at the iPro Stadium, in a game of extremely fine margins and little goalmouth action, Wigan came out on top courtesy of Beausejour’s wonderful strike that finally put an end to the Rams’ impressive League form.
The Latics went into the match having conceded just 10 away league goals this season - with Brighton and Hove Albion the only team in the division to have conceded fewer.
A stringent back line with a wealth Premier League experience has been a major factor in Wigan’s defensive record, including the likes of Ivan Ramis, Emmerson Boyce, Leon Barnett and James Perch.
The back-four formed a high defensive line at the iPro Stadium, which caused the midfield to become congested, and subsequently possession interchanged between the two teams frequently early on.
It was Rosler’s men who had the first real effort of the game when Nick Powell, who had been a doubt prior to kick-off with a hamstring complaint, miss-hit a half volley that rolled narrowly wide after three minutes.
The Manchester United loanee then showed nimble feet to waltz away from John Eustace and Jake Buxton after a mix-up between the duo, but the 19-year-old dragged his shot wide as he advanced towards the penalty area.
The Rams struggled to build momentum, with Wigan pressing their opponents high up the pitch, whilst when the home side did manage to enter dangerous positions, their final ball in the opening half-an-hour was lacking.
Boyce had a powerful header fly over the crossbar when he connected with Stephen Crainey’s free-kick, as clear cut chances continued to evade both teams, with Powell receiving a yellow card for simulation one of the few talking points in what was a quiet first 35 minutes.
James McArthur then had a dipping volley drop inches over the crossbar before Roger Espinoza snatched at a half-volley that bounced into the wet turf and drifted wide, as both managers went into their respective dressing rooms at half-time with plenty to ponder.
One shining light of the opening 45 minutes was Will Hughes’ performance at the heart of the Rams’ midfield. The England Under-21 international displayed terrific vision and deft touches in the build up to attacks, as well as the tenacity to win back possession when required.
At half-time, Head Coach Steve McClaren introduced Jeff Hendrick in place of Craig Bryson, and the Republic of Ireland international’s first contribution was to be questionably penalised for a shoulder to shoulder with Espinoza. From the resulting free-kick, Beauesjour whipped in a dangerous delivery that Barnett flicked over the crossbar.
With clear cut opportunities remaining at a premium, it looked as though it would take either a mistake or a wonder strike to break the deadlock, and Beasejour duly delivered in the 69th minute. The Chilean winger played a short corner with substitute Callum McManaman, and dribbled the ball towards the corner of the penalty area before rifling an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net past goalkeeper Lee Grant.
McClaren responded by introducing Conor Sammon against his former club, and the Irish forward almost had an instant impact, as his cut-back from the right found fellow substitute Simon Dawkins. The on loan Tottenham Hotspur forward took one touch past a defender before seeing his low shot deflect narrowly wide.
As Wigan tried to slow the game down and drop deeper and deeper, Derby continued to up the ante and began to find spaces in the visitors' back line. Hughes had a long range shot that was beaten away by Ali Al Habsi with Sammon racing in for scraps, before Michael Keane’s header flashed towards Dawkins at the far post, but despite his best efforts, the 26-year-old could not divert the ball goalwards.
With the game entering the last five minutes, the Rams had one final effort to salvage a point. Dawkins released right-back Andre Wisdom down the right-hand side. The Liverpool loanee then flashed the ball across the face of goal where the normally prolific Chris Martin was lurking, but the former Norwich City forward side-footed his effort into the turf and agonisingly wide.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Wisdom, Keane, Buxton, Forsyth, Eustace (Sammon 71’), Hughes, Bryson (Hendrick 45’), Ward (Dawkins 64’), Martin, Russell.
Subs not used: Legzdins (GK), Cisse, Bennett, Whitbread.
Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi (GK), Boyce, Barnett, Ramis (Crainey 28’), Perch, McArthur, McCann, Espinoza (McManaman 69’), Powell, Fortune, Beausejour.
Subs not used: Pollitt (GK), Kiernan, Gomez, McClean, Holt.
Attendance: 26,740 (835 Wigan Athletic supporters).