Wigan have had a glorious 2005, but their year ended on one of its lower notes as two magnificent Blackburn goals and a scruffier one near the end condemned them to their fourth home defeat in the Premiership this season.
Morten Gamst Pedersen in the first half and Steven Reid in the second scored goals of breathtaking quality, but this was a highly effective all-round performance from Blackburn.
The Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, was away taking advantage of some winter sun in Barbados, but had he been at the JJB Stadium he would have seen the club he used to play for comprehensively outshine the one he has built up from nothing.
"It was a horrible way to end 2005, but in the main it's been a great year for Wigan Athletic," said the manager Paul Jewell, whose team showed the effects of playing three times in six days against a Blackburn side who had an enforced rest due to last week's freeze.
"I don't want to use tiredness as a excuse," said Jewell. "From first whistle to last, they were better than us. They were first to every ball. Maybe we started believing our own press and thinking we're a great team."
Blackburn were sharper from the word go and Mike Pollitt needed to make saves from Ryan Nelsen's header and Paul Dickov's shot even before Rovers took the lead with the first of their spectacular goals.
Dickov's cross from the right and Gary Teale's attempt at a defensive header only carried the ball beyond the far post, where Pedersen scored with a rasping volley from a narrow angle.
"Once we got our noses in front I was confident that we would see the game out," said the Blackburn manager, Mark Hughes, as his side moved into their highest position since he arrived.
There was a brief flurry from Wigan when Lee McCulloch had an effort saved, Henri Camara saw one deflected wide and Michael Gray cleared Arjan de Zeeuw's header off the line, but Rovers wrapped it up soon after the break.
If Perdersen's goal was a good one, then Reid's was an out-and- out gem. This time the cross from the right came from David Bentley with Pascal Chimbonda supplying the ineffectual defensive header. It reached the edge of the area, where Reid's ferocious strike sent the ball swerving into the roof of the net. Reid had been a dominant figure in midfield all afternoon for Rovers and it was fitting that he should score a goal of such sumptuous quality. "It was an outstanding strike," said Hughes. "He's done it time and time again in training and it was only a matter of time before he produced it in a match. He was exceptional today."
Jewell tried to salvage something by switching to a three-man attack when he brought on David Connolly. It rarely looked like changing the complexion of the game, although Brad Friedel did save from the striker to deny the Latics a late lifeline. Blackburn increased their lead when a defensive muddle left Craig Bellamy onside and unmolested to claim Blackburn's third.
"It was our worst home performance of the season," said Jewell. "If that was what we were going to do regularly, I'd be very worried, but I don't think it will be. It's still been a great 2005."Reuse content