Derby County ended the calendar year 10 games unbeaten, but were left frustrated by a stubborn and dogged Wigan Athletic side as the points were shared at Pride Park Stadium.
The Rams controlled the majority of the contest, but the visitors edged the clear-cut chances department as Will Grigg, particularly, went closest to breaking the deadlock – hitting the post with one effort, before also being thwarted by Scott Carson after racing through on goal.
The second half boiled down to whether Steve McClaren’s side could find a way through the Wigan brick wall, but the visitors were at their defensive best to arrest their five-game losing streak and prevent Derby from securing a ninth win in 10 outings.
The point, however, kept the Rams within touching distance of the coveted top six going into Monday’s clash with Norwich City in East Anglia.
Ahead of this meeting, the message had been clear from within the Derby camp – Wigan were ‘dangerous’ opponents.
The first half very much typified why such a statement was made. McClaren’s men held total control, without holding controlling at all.
In terms of possession and territorial advantage, sure this was the case. This was very much an attack versus defence training exercise – one to the extent where all ten of the Rams’ outfield players spent a large period of time in the Wigan half, pulling the visitors’ backline and midfield one way and then the other in search of a way through to Jussi Jääskeläinen’s goal.
The Latics’ goal was far from living a charmed life, however. Johnny Russell screwed a shot with his weaker foot wide, whilst Tom Ince saw an effort deflected into the arms of the Wigan goalkeeper after marauding into the area.
Despite all their control of the ball, Warren Joyce’s side looked a threat on the counter attack and created the game’s best chances through it.
Will Grigg had the alarm bells ringing on a couple of occasions, particularly when he hit the post on 11 minutes after directing a deep corner across goal, whilst Scott Carson, who signed for
Derby from Wigan, had to be alert to turn behind a goal bound Michael Jacobs header after meeting Stephen Warnock’s cross from the left.
At the back, Jake Buxton and Dan Burn were immovable and won everything in the air as the Rams continued to be frustrated and they could have found themselves behind on the half hour mark after Grigg seized on a wayward pass from Hughes.
A constant menace with his pace, the Northern Ireland international forward raced towards goal and away from the Derby backline, but was thwarted by another important Carson stop.
From there, McClaren’s side enjoyed their best spell of the half as they began to threaten a goal.
Russell blazed over the hosts’ best opportunity after Ikechi Anya, making his first start since the middle of October, tricked his way into the penalty area, but despite other ventures forward there was still no way through the Wigan wall.
The second half followed the same pattern, but aside from an early Jordi Gomez shot that flew over the crossbar it was Derby asking all of the questions.
After Jacob Butterfield saw an effort deflected into the arms of Jääskeläinen, McClaren decided to twist and two early changes as Abdoul Camara and Craig Bryson were introduced to add more bite to the midfield.
After the hour, Ince saw a free kick clawed away for a corner by Jääskeläinen, but that was the closest they came to breaking the deadlock and securing a ninth win in ten games.
McClaren’s men huffed and puffed, but just could not find a way through as they were stopped from finding the net for the first time since the end of October and Wigan arrested their five-game losing streak to collect a valuable point on the road.
Derby County: Carson, Baird, Keogh (C), Pearce, Anya; Johnson, Butterfield (Bryson, 59), Hughes; Ince, Russell (Camara, 59), Bent (Vydra, 73)
Substitutes not used: Mitchell, Shackell, Weimann, Hanson
Wigan Athletic: Jääskeläinen, Buxton, Power, Grigg (Le Fondre, 83), Kellett (Byrne, 74), Gomez, MacDonald, Jacobs, Warnock (C), Wildschut (Flores, 88), Burn
Substitutes not used: Lavercombe, Davies, Flores, Burke, Barrigan
Attendance: 29,289 (467 away supporters)