Rosler got his tactics and team selection right this time and the result was a shocker. A Latics team that had not won for eight matches went on to beat a Derby outfit that had been unbeaten in twelve. Wigan just would not allow the home team time and space on the ball and fully deserved their victory.
As we have come to expect from him Uwe Rosler made changes in his lineup, causing due consternation among fans. He was to stick with the eleven that completed the last game against Millwall except Emyr Huws and Don Cowie came back from injury to replace James McClean and Shaun Maloney. The 4-4-2 formation saw Marc-Antoine Fortune and Callum McManaman playing up front, with Cowie in wide right midfield. Leon Barnett was named captain.
The first half hour was scrappy as Latics’ pressing tactic disrupted the home team’s game. Derby just did not look convincing and Wigan looked full of energy and sacrifice. However, the left footed right winger Johnny Russell curled a shot marginally wide but Latics gradually started to threaten the Derby defence. Huws had an effort saved by Jack Butland, then Roger Espinoza put a great pass through for McManaman, whose effort was blocked by Butland’s legs.
Just before half time Latics were awarded a penalty with John Eustace handling the ball as Espinoza threatened. James Tavernier hit the ball to Butland’s left but the home keeper made a fine save. The same Eustace then scored at the other end after Zak Whitbread had headed on a free kick for the experienced central midfielder to bundle home.
Latics went into half time a goal down after having looked in control. Conceding that goal so soon after missing a penalty was a body blow from which they might not recover.
Steve McLaren surprisingly made two changes at half time, Will Hughes and Ibe being replaced by Simon Dawkins and Jeff Hendrick. In the 56th minute Scott Carson could only parry Hendrick’s shot, but Latics managed to clear the ball. Ten minutes later Craig Bryson’s shot deflected off Hendrick to go narrowly wide. However, Latics were still in the game and playing with spirit. With the protection provided by Cowie, Tavernier was able to move forward and attack the Derby defence.
McClean had come on for McManaman after 62 minutes. Seven minutes later he put the ball home from short range after Cowie had put the indefatigable Espinoza through on the right for a cross into the box. Shaun Maloney came on for Huws a couple of minutes later. Latics were on top and McClean had a header go wide from a Maloney free kick and Tavernier’s fine shot from the edge of the penalty area went narrowly wide.
In the 83rd minute Tavernier ‘s corner caused problems for the Derby defence. Adam Forshaw’s shot was parried by Butland, but from the resulting melee the ball fell to McClean who scooped it home.
Espinoza’s shot from outside the box brought a fine save from Butland. William Kvist replaced Kiernan after 87 minutes. In the five minutes time that was added on, Barnett committed a foul just on the edge of the box in a dangerous position. Fortunately for Wigan, Chris Martin’s powerful shot passed wide of the far post.
There was widespread celebration among Wigan fans when the referee signaled the end of the game. Derby had gone 644 minutes without conceding until McClean’s first goal. Latics win was well deserved from a performance full of spirit and passion.
Rosler’s team selection had raised eyebrows with such as McClean and Maloney left on the bench. However, he surely appeased many fans by the selection of Espinoza in the centre of midfield.
Espinoza’s inclusion proved to be the catalyst that galvanized Latics’ midfield into action. His enthusiasm is infectious. Like Espinoza, Forshaw and Huws were tireless in their efforts to control the centre of the pitch. Despite playing so little competitive football over the past couple of months, Espinoza was a revelation, pressing the opposition and attacking with gusto.
McClean added his usual amount of energy when he came on, but importantly got a couple of opportunist goals. All too often in the past he has got himself into good positions without having the composure to finish. This time he got it right and his goals won the game for Wigan.
The unpopular Cowie played an important role in right midfield, allowing the exciting Tavernier to attack down the right flank. Nevertheless Tavernier worked hard on the defensive side of his game too. Cowie’s play may be unspectacular but he is tireless in his efforts, a consummate team player.
It was the kind of display that we saw in the early days of Rosler’s reign last year. Latics were bristling with energy, closing down the opposition and looking threatening in the second half as they moved forward. Rosler’s dream of high tempo, high pressing football may not be an illusion after all.
It had taken Rosler so long to give Espinoza a chance. The reasons are unknown to most of us who are not privy to what is going on at the club. Given the American/Honduran’s impact on the game one wonders why he was not included before.
Scott Carson: 7 – did all that was required of him.
James Tavernier: 8 – a display of attacking promise, with a high workrate in defence.
Leon Barnett: 8 – a captain’s performance. The defence has tightened up since his return.
Rob Kiernan: 7 – solid in defence and unruffled and accurate in his distribution.
Maynor Figueroa: 7 – a typical performance from him, full of endeavour.
Adam Forshaw: 8 – unable to show his silky skills, but was a real dynamo in the centre of midfield.
Emyr Huws: 8 – combative and good in his use of the ball. Went off after 70 minutes.
Roger Espinoza: 8.5 – a remarkable performance considering his lack of match fitness.
Don Cowie: 8 – a tireless worker, sacrificing himself for the team.
Callum McManaman: 7 – worked hard against a tight Derby defence. Substituted after 62 minutes.
Marc-Antoine Fortune: 7 – a typical hard-working performance.
James McClean: – the match winner.
Shaun Maloney: – looked lively in those last 25 minutes.
William Kvist: – came on after 87 minutes.