Perhaps Bruised Pride Park would be a better name for Derby County's stadium at the moment. After witnessing the failure of his gamble on including four new signings against the team he steered to Premier League safety last season, Derby's manager Paul Jewell was left to search amid the wreckage of defeat for something of comfort. He struggled.
"We had lost six of the previous seven home games, so we needed to take a risk," said Jewell, who fielded the newcomer Emmanuel Villa up front and three more debutants in midfield in Hossam Ghaly, Laurent Robert and the £1.5m signing from Blackburn, Robbie Savage. "We are taking blows. I've taken them before, I'll take them again. Some of the new lads looked a bit tired, but I still believe, in time, we can make them into a side unrecognisable from the one I inherited." Time is something which has all but run out for Derby, and Jewell himself acknowledges their chance of avoiding the drop is "mighty small".
Savage flailed around in characteristic fashion on Saturday, earning a lecture from the referee for a ludicrous challenge on Emile Heskey after 15 minutes. But in truth he lost the midfield struggle to his opposite number, Michael Brown.
Derby have proved poor stayers this season – Jewell pointed out that if matches lasted 88 minutes, rather than 90, his team would have 16 points, not seven. And their prospect of avoiding another late collapse worsened significantly when the centre-back Claude Davis was sent off in the 58th minute for a second bookable foul on Marcus Bent.
Wigan, who have risen impressively from the relegation area since Steve Bruce's arrival as manager, should have had two or three goals before the 81st-minute substitute Antoine Sibierski, with his first touch of the ball, drove home a low shot from the edge of the box.
Jewell is contemplating a longer-term prospect of rebuilding at a lower level and coming back stronger. And he is drawing on his experiences at his previous club to bolster his belief.
"I have got a long-term vision," he said. "It took six years to build a side at Wigan and get them to the Premiership. Hopefully, the club and the fans will trust me to do a job here. I remember when Wigan were bottom of the old Second Division, and we lost 5-1 to Wrexham in the LDV Trophy. And I thought, 'Bloody hell, I've got a job here'. Derby are in a lot better position than that. Maybe we are going to go down, but there's a lot more for me to get excited about here."
Goals: Sibierski (82) 0-1.
Derby County (4-4-2): Price; Mears, Todd, Davis, Mills; Fagan, Savage, Ghaly (Macken, 85), Robert (Edworthy, 59); Barnes, Villa (Teale, 71). Substitutes not used: Hinchcliffe, Lewis.
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Boyce, Bramble, Kilbane; Valencia, Landzaat (Sibierski, 81), Brown, Palacios (Koumas, 64); Heskey, Bent (Olembe, 90). Substitutes not used: Pollitt, Agahowa.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
Booked: Derby Davis; Wigan Boyce, Brown.
Sent off: Davis (58).
Man of the match: Fagan.
Attendance: 31,658.Reuse content