Date: 23rd February 2008 at 6:39pm
Written by: baskerville

Latics fans arriving at the game today could have been forgiven they were in the windy city of Chicago due to large numbers of excited children from there milling around the stadium before the game.

Whether they were excited after the game is open to question as the Latics, welcoming back their former manager Paul Jewell to the JJB today secured the three points from a truly dire game which was more suited to the championship where one or maybe even both sides will reside next week.

Steve Bruce had openly talked of starting with Sibs partnering Heskey up front but in the end Bruce persevered with new signing King in the hope that he would break his duck for the club

New signing Edman was employed at left back with Kilbane moved up to left side of midfield thereby enforcing the defensive mentality ethos of the new look team with the only creative midfielder being the enigma that is Valencia.

Latics were the more dominant side in the first half.

Valencia and Melchiot looking sharp on the right hand side and if the crosses had come in sooner Roy Carroll may have been put under more pressure than he was.

As it turned out the best effort was a Kilbane bullet header which went straight into the arms of Carroll.

Heskey was particularly wasteful in front of goal when poor reactions when less than two yards out meant he couldn`t finish off when a striker of his pedigree really should have done better.

Derby chose to defend deep and the veteran partnership of Stubbs and Moore easily dealt with the Wigan front two.

Wigan`s most dangerous player was Melchiot who has been a truly excellent signing.

A goalmouth scramble found Melchiot and an audacious back heel was blocked on the line. Reports suggest the ball was over the line but there was very little protest from the Wigan players.

Derby created very little in the first half but two half chances that fell to Miller who should have at least forced Kirkland into a save.

Half time came with Derby surely the happier side for the nil all score line.

The second half started much in the same vein of the first half. Latics totally dominating play but creating very little for the front two of whom Heskey seemed to be permanently offside.

Indeed Heskey`s body language suggested a player who is low on confidence a worrying sign for Steve Bruce.

Latics had control of midfield even though Derby were playing 4-5-1.Savage particularly anonymous and didn`t even get booked.

Midway through the second half Derby brought Villa on and switched to a 4-4-2 which gave Latics more room in midfield

King switched more towards the left and started stretching the Derby defence ably assisted by the limited but industrious Killer.

Killer won corner after corner and I remarked to my friend that the only way we would score was a Scharner header from a set piece.

I was almost right, from a Killer corner the ball bounced around in the Derby 6 yard area and Scharner lashed it home for his 5th goal of the season .

After that Latics took total control

Valencia made several superb runs but was let down by the lack of support in the area. Latics could and should have had two penalties

Moore for a deliberate hand ball and Moore again for a Cumbrian throw on Scharner which Wiley the referee in front of the incident waved play on.

The second goal when it came enlightened a dull game.

The ball fell to Valencia on the right ,he cut in shaped to cross to Heskey and then blasted the ball into the roof of the net. For once we weren`t hanging on to a one goal lead.

Derby tried to push forward but with a very solid back four with Scharner in imperious form there was no way through.

A deserved victory in the end but Latics need to step up a gear if they are to get the points needed to survive.


Lack of goals from forward line is cause for concern. We will come up against better defences on the run in and need our forwards to be firing

Player Ratings

Kirkland ?7
Had little to do but did it well when he did

Captain Fantastic/Super Mario whatever you call him the guy is class. Hutchings and Benson deserve credit for getting him to the club.

Missed one header otherwise a perfect ten. On this performance Jewell must be wondering why he played him in midfield..

Under pressure from the signing of Hagen and with Bramble waiting in the wings but had an excellent game today.

Competent debut

Took his goal well and caused problems for Derby all afternoon

Brown? 7
Worked hard but quieter than usual

Covered every bit of mud on the pitch. Not his best game

Poor first half but good second half, won so many corners it seemed inevitable that we would score from one of them

Only on side for the kick offs. Really off form, had two good chances in the first half which he should have buried. The goal scoring drought goes on and on.

Doesn`t look premier league standard . Against the oldest centre half partnership in the league he should have been able to turn them but they totally controlled him.
Never stopped trying and looked sharper when moved out wide.

Manager Rating
Steve Bruce …6

Going for graft over style. Not sure this will work against better teams though.

Ref Watch

Missed the Melchiot goal and the two penalties but was sensible with his card and tried to keep a poor game flowing.

Pitch Watch?4
The centre section has been re-laid and a couple of other sections looked to have had some treatment. Still poor though.