Derby County made it seven wins from eight matches in Sky Bet League One with a 1-0 victory at Wigan Athletic on Boxing Day.

Defender Curtis Nelson headed home his second goal of the season after 19 minutes to round off an excellent period of first half pressure.

Paul Warne’s side dominated for long spells at the DW Stadium and had a number of chances to make their lead more comprehensive but in the end Nelson’s goal proved to be enough.

Despite the closeness of the scoreline, Derby were full value for all three points.

Key Moments

Derby’s line-up for the clash saw two changes to the starting line-up from the 3-1 home win over Lincoln City last Thursday with Ryan Nyambe and Kane Wilson coming into the side in place of Joe Ward and Tyrese Fornah who both reverted to the bench.

Former Wigan defender Nyambe returned after a month-long absence with a groin issue while Wilson was rewarded with a start after coming off the bench to score in the win over the Imps. Winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing also started after shaking off an ankle knock sustained against Lincoln.

Backed by around 4,000 supporters in the away end and sporting their green third kit, Derby had the first chance of the contest after just two minutes. Skipper Conor Hourihane curled a ball into the box from the left which striker James Collins met with a glancing header, but it drifted harmlessly over the crossbar. Derby started on the front foot and kept the pressure on from the word go in the opening 45 minutes.

Derby thought they had the opener after 12 minutes and only a fine save from Sam Tickle in the home goal kept them at bay. Hourihane’s deep ball into the box from the right was headed back across goal by Eiran Cashin towards Wilson and, despite directing his header towards the far corner, Tickle managed to dive to his right and claw the ball away and Collins was unable to find the target from the rebound from a very tight angle.

Derby enjoyed plenty of early pressure at the DW Stadium and their persistence was eventually rewarded after 19 minutes. Wigan failed to clear a corner sufficiently and, after regaining possession, Barkhuizen delivered an inch perfect ball back into the box from the left which was met by a firm header by Nelson into the bottom corner to send the travelling Rams wild.

Craig Forsyth had a goal disallowed shortly afterwards for a foul by Collins in the build-up as the Rams poured forward in number. Wigan did find their feet to a degree by the half hour mark, but Derby remained resolute and compact at the back as they launched a couple of long throws into the penalty area with were easily dealt with.

Derby continued to look a threat on the attack as the half closed out although they were unable to make their excellent play count any further than Nelson’s goal at the turnaround. Collins had a great chance in the final stages of the half, after a short backpass allowed him to advance on goal, which Tickle saved well.

Barkhuizen had a chance to double the Rams’ lead straight after half-time. Wilson’s cross from the right found its way to the winger at the far post, but he was unable to direct his effort on target and he only found the side netting.

Derby’s number seven had another chance five minutes into the half after cutting inside from the left to shoot with his right foot which this time forced Tickle into action and push his effort over for a corner.

Wigan had a chance to draw level on the hour mark following a corner. The Latics retained possession following a corner and a deep deliver to the far post found Stephen Humphrys at the far post and his cross-shot was well blocked by Joe Wildsmith for his first notable piece of action in the contest.

Substitute Callum McManaman hit the side netting soon afterwards as the home side continued to look for a leveller, after cutting inside from the left-hand side to drive a low strike which he intended to divert into the near post, and that prompted Warne into making a change with Louie Sibley coming off the bench to replace Barkhuizen with just under 20 minutes left.

Midfielder Fornah and centre-back Sonny Bradley also came off the bench in the final minutes and the latter stages saw the hosts look for an equaliser and ask questions of the Rams from a defensive aspect but, once again, they stood tall and saw five minutes of added time out well to record another welcome and deserved three points.

The Teams

Wigan Athletic: Tickle (GK), Morrison, Sessegnon (Shaw 72), Hughes, Clare, Humphrys, Lang (C) (Magennis 83), S Smith, Sze (J Smith 46), Adeeko (Aasgaard 63), McHugh (McManaman 46).

Substitutes Not Used: Amos (GK), Watts.

Derby County: Wildsmith (GK), Wilson (Fornah 88), Forsyth, Hourihane (C) (Bradley 88) (Elder 90), Cashin, Barkhuizen (Sibley 72), Bird, Collins, Mendez-Laing, Nyambe, Nelson.

Substitutes Not Used: Vickers (GK), John-Jules, Ward.


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What’s Next?

Derby will round off 2023 on Friday night when they head to Oxford United in their festive fixture in Sky Bet League One (7:45pm kick-off).