The last time we played a league match at Wigan in 2004 we were trounced 5-0.
It’s a result not forgotten by many of the large travelling army of away fans who gathered en masse in the town centres of both Wigan and Preston prior to kick off.
The jovial mood of the fans walking to the stadium was enhanced after watching non-league Lincoln pull off an FA Cup shock at Burnley in the televised lunchtime kick off.
Wigan are also famous for having a succesfull rugby league club and also hosting the annual World Pie Eating Championships.
They are a relatively new Football League club having themselves come from non-league football in the mid 70s.
To say that their fans have always been delighted to have scored victories over their more illustrious neighbours is probably an understatement so with both sets of supporters keyed up for the derby clash a frenzied atmosphere was created inside the DW which at times resembled a cauldron as the two sides slugged it out like gladiators in what at times was a bruising encounter.
Clear cut chances were few and hard to come by but in an incident packed game our best chance came in the 10th minute when after making a bright start we were awarded a penalty after the bustling Callum Robinson had been tripped.
However, Jordan Hugill’s spot kick was saved by the keeper.
We spent the second half largely on the back foot with our best chances of finding a winner coming late on when the ball fell to Huntington unmarked at the back post.
The result meant we stayed in a more than respectable mid table position while our opponents were left to continue their relegation struggle though most of our fans were already convinced of the outcome of that particular battle having chanted that they were going “Down with the Rovers” for large chunks of the second half.
A frustrating afternoon at the DW Stadium for North End on a day where so much was expected and hyped up, and in the end, it was all really a bit of a non-event.
We struggled to really create any kind of chances or put a real spell of pressure on Wigan throughout the game, to be fair to the home side they were very solid at the back, and were able to deal with the little that we threw at them easily.The Hugill penalty is one to be forgotten quickly, a poor effort, it happens.
Some would say it shouldn’t have been him given the ball, but Grayson backed him as the designated taker.
With the teams around us not getting the best of results yesterday, it could have been a valuable three points, but we just never really showed enough class or a clinical edge to grab a goal.
Greg Cunningham produced an oustanded challenge in his own box in the second half which denied a nailed on goal, timed to perfection.
As the game drifted away, both side tried to put the pressure on, with Wigan really looking the more dangerous, but still neither really deserved the winner they were going for.
Beckford and Makienok came on together during the second half, but neither really managed to have any sort of impact on the game – Beckford especially.
Another point on a day where a showing of that little bit of class we know we have would have given us three, so it was a frustrating one.
A gritty stalemate is probably the best way to describe this contest with most of the action taking place in the middle of the park as North End spurned the chance to move up the table with 0-0 draw.
We certainly had the best chance of the game but Jordan Hugill missed a golden opportunity firing a very weak penalty which Matt Gilks saved in the Wigan goal.
The Latics had a chance very early on but in the second half only one decent chance fell to both sides with Tom Clarke firing over forNorth End and Bogle being superbly tackled by Greg Cunningham when closing on goal.
You could see the battling qualities that Warren Joyce has instilled in the Wigan side but I suspect the majority of the 4,765 travelling fans inside the DW Stadium saw it as a chance missed for North End against a team third from bottom.
North End started with the same XI for the third game on the trot with the manager sticking to the 4-4-2.North End changed both strikers round with Jermaine Beckford and Simon Makienok coming on for Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson.
To be fair to Makienok he won his fair share of headers in the air but neither of the strikers had the influence on the game that the manager would have been hoping for. Wigan’s best chance of the match came with a quarter of an hour to go when Bogle got through only to be tackled superbly by the reliable Greg Cunningham and with that tackle went the last real chance of breaking the deadlock in a typically gritty and battling local derby with neither side being able to land the winning blow.
A disappointing afternoon then for the huge North End following, who will have expected more after two good home wins in the last seven days.
It is a reflection on how tough the Championship is, though, that there are no easy games in this division. To be fair to Wigan they have come into some form recently with good results against Norwich and Wolves.
To take seven points in a week in this division is no mean feat and although we will reflect on a mediocre afternoon at Wigan it should not take anything away from the fact that club are steadily making progress. You are not going to win every game so the next best you can do is take the draw and move on.
Let’s not mince words, this was a disappointing display and a final result that left the 5,000 travelling North End fans with a ‘flat’ feeling as we trudged off the match towards Wigan North Western rail station for the 11-minute journey home.
Let’s be honest, Wigan are in the bottom three for a reason and sometimes lacked confidence along with little goal threat.
What a pity that the visitors decided to “not quite click” in such a key match as this.
Three points being the minimum requirement to at least keep the play-off places in sight. Yes, we have made progress and should not underestimate the achievements of Simon Grayson on the occasion of his fourth anniversary as our manager; a feat increasingly rare in the modern era.
But, and there’s always a but, for most of us in the stands, this was the game that we knew would be a key moment in the season.
We knew it would answer the question of “are we going to push-on and make a serious effort at getting close to the play-offs or are we going to fade away into mid-table mediocrity”?
Incidentally, not the worst thing that could happen in light of relatively recent traumatic seasons.
No doubt the penalty miss by Jordan Hugill in the opening few minutes of the game had an impact, but it is still no excuse for the rather inept display over the whole 90 minutes.
To end on a more positive note, we do have to remember that this league gets tougher every year as increasingly more clubs are flooded with parachute payments from the Premier League. Against this backdrop, I would argue that we still boxing above our weight and continue to move forward.
So could Grayson still be manager in another four years’ time with Preston having had a least one season back in the top flight? Stranger things have happened, as a quick glance down the M65, towards claret and blue territory, shows only too well.