Wigan Athletic 2 Derby County 0: Valencia gives Wigan reason to believe as Jewell return falls flat

Latics feed off 'embarrassing' display by old saviour's side
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The Independent Football

Paul Jewell knew he faced many challenges when he took charge of Derby's sinking vessel last November but finding enough words to describe how bad they are was possibly not among them.

"Embarrassing", "disgraceful" and "dire" were among those that tripped readily off the tongue last night after he had emerged red-faced and almost shaking with rage from the experience of watching his former club, themselves hardly at the top of their form, brush his new one aside quite comfortably.

"There is no getting away from it, that performance was just totally unacceptable," he said. "I never normally slag my players off in public but I can't defend them. To play like we did was embarrassing. It was the worst I have seen from a group of Premier League players, it was disgraceful, really.

"Derby County deserves better than that and I can tell you that next week it is not going to be a very nice place to come to work. It is going to be as uncomfortable for the players as it was for me watching them today."

The only consolation – and he will appreciate the black humour – is that he has at least done Wigan a favour. The last thing he wanted, he said, was to see his old club suffer Derby's inevitable fate and be relegated too. Yesterday's points could be the three that ensure it does not happen.

Wigan took their time in getting there. In a first half of little quality from either side they managed to demonstrate how unused they are to being on top, let alone making the most of it with a few goals. Kevin Kilbane, probably their best player, had a decent header but could do no more than direct it straight at Roy Carroll; then Mario Melchiot had a backheeled effort cleared off the line by Giles Barnes and Emile Heskey failed to convert a low cross from Michael Brown after Robbie Savage had carelessly given the ball away.

Yet even they could not pass up all of the invitations coming their way. When Kilbane's 60th-minute corner swung in from the right, Heskey, at the far post, had two attempts to head it in. The valiant Carroll parried both but the ball ultimately ran along the face of goal to Paul Scharner and, with no Derby player close enough to stop him, the centre back could not miss.

Seven minutes from the end, right winger Antonio Valencia, picked out by Wilson Palacios's intelligent pass, stepped inside Jay McEveley to make the points safe, although it would have been hard to argue they were ever anything but.

"I warned my players to be aware that one day Derby will win a game, that they can't keep getting beat, but to be fair there was only one team ever going to win this game and that was us," Derby's mager Steve Bruce said. "Without being disrespectful to Derby, they probably over-achieved in getting promoted last season and the Premier League is an unforgiving place because every team you play against is good."

Derby's only target is to avoid taking Sunderland's record for the lowest points tally in the Premiership. "I've said to the players, do you really want to be a laughing stock?" Jewell said. With only nine points wonand six more still to find, you would not put much money on them succeeding.