A FRANCO di Santo double helped to condemn Queens Park Rangers to their second defeat of the Premier League campaign.
The Argentinean forward capitalised on a couple of defensive errors to fire the Latics to victory, first knocking a deflected effort beyond Paddy Kenny shortly before half time.
The former Chelsea front-man then capitalised on a lack of pressure to turn and fire home, completing his brace and sending the visiting crowd home disappointed.
Rangers had their opportunities through Patrick Agyemang, Bruno Perone and Adel Taarabt but failed to display a ruthless edge when it mattered most.
Neil Warnock will now have to work hard to make additions to a paper thin squad prior to the televised fixture against Newcastle United in September.
Queens Park Rangers were without new signings Joey Barton and Luke Young due to the timing of their signature, while DJ Campbell once again was not able to make the squad.
Warnock therefore started with Paddy Kenny behind a changed back four of Danny Gabbidon, league debutante Bruno Perone, Ex-Latic Fitz Hall and Matt Connolly.
Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry were the chosen central midfield pairing with Akos Buzsaky, Adel Taarabt and Tommy Smith starting behind lone forward Patrick Agyemang.
Wigan started with Ali Al-Habsi behind a back four of Emmerson Boyce, Adrian Lopez, Gary Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa.
The midfield trio consisted of ex-Ranger Ben Watson, Jordi Gomez and Mohamed Diame with Victor Moses and Hugo Rodallega played off striker Franco di Santo.
KICK OFF: WIGAN ATHLETIC v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
A deluge of rain soon subsided at the DW Stadium making for a slick playing conditions in Lancashire. Rangers, buoyed by their win at Everton and subsequent dealings in the transfer market, took to the field with ambitions of securing a Premier League double.
The hosts had their own reasons for wanting to win, having failed to do so over fellow promoted sides Norwich City and Swansea City – Roberto Martinez’s men would be looking to register their first maximum of the season.
It was the hosts that started the brighter of the two teams, using the vast surface of the pitch to stretch the QPR back-line and probe for gaps in Tyne defensive unit. Alejandro Faurlín’s foul gave the opportunity for Jordi Gomez to line-up a set piece.
The former Barcelona man drove a dipping effort that brushed the roof of the net, leaving Paddy Kenny relatively contented between the goal for QPR. The Wigan fast-paced passing tactics were highlighting some inefficiencies in the R’s back-line.
The naivety at times of players to lean into tackles and give away cheap fouls looked at times to contribute to their own downfall. While official Mr Oliver was at times easily-led, in essence so was the Rangers back-line.
Emmerson Boyce appeared a man possessed as he scythed a gaping hole in the R’s defence, cutting across from the right. His frustration was palpable given the lack of movement of the Latics but Victor Moses picked up the ball to the left of the area.
The man who Neil Warnock blooded at Crystal Palace turned a static Perone inside out before agonisingly seeing his effort fly across the target and away to safety. While Rangers were holding their own, the hosts were looking the more likely to gain the upper hand.
Cue Shaun Derry stepping forward for the visitors. Some neat interchange saw the veteran midfielder let fly from distance, and his venomous effort forced Ali Al-Habsi into a smart save high to his right.
The near 2000 supporters who had travelled up from West London took great heart from this and continued to generate an excellent atmosphere. While winning in terms of atmosphere, the players were getting left precariously exposed on the counter-attack.
With that in mind Rangers were looking to strike while the iron was hot, and the latest of their opportunities was the epitome of the lessons they are required to learn at this level. Nice interchange saw Taarabt with space to manoeuvre on the edge of the area.
Many will know what a dangerous prospect this can present and the Moroccan let fly from distance only to be thwarted by the right-hand upright. With the goal at his mercy Patrick Agyemang conspired to sweep the ball wide of the mark.
Rangers were finding themselves on top for the first time in the fixture and Perone should have done better following a Buzsaky cross. The Brazilian defender dollied his header over the bar when well placed for the visitors.
Defensive errors then nearly cost both sides when Al-Habsi’s clearance was seized on by the ever-alert Agyemang. His run and subsequent shot was blocked away. A player that was creating his own chances by and large, but that elusive ruthlessness was lacking for the forward.
Wigan were not exclusive in terms of errors by any means, as after being let off for a scuffed clearance, Matt Connolly dithered and granted di Santo a second crack of the whip – with Kenny alert to tip his effort over the bar.
Wigan were served their first yellow card of the encounter and despite the protestations of the home crowd, Lopez was effectively looking to join Taarabt in his number seven shirt, such was the evident nature of his infraction.
Fitz Hall looked a little fragile following a blow but this could be little excuse for Wigan’s best chance to date. Fine interplay involving Moses and Rodallega sees the former strike straight at Kenny when well-placed.
It was sadly a sign of the direction of this encounter as Wigan had the lead four minutes before the break. More useful work from playmaker Rodallega found Franco di Santo on the edge of the area.
The Argentinean flicked the ball up before firing a deflected effort beyond Kenny and into the top right hand corner. Unfortunate for the R’s stopper as the took the ball inches beyond his reach, but nevertheless it was the hosts that had the advantage.
GOAL: WIGAN ATHLETIC 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
It was a tad harsh on Rangers who had more than a say in the flow of this encounter, but that crucial deflection was but an indication of the paper thin difference between the two sides, compounded by the lack of ruthlessness in the visitors’ artillery.
On the stroke of half time, lady luck showed the other side of her cruel twist of fate when a deflected Adel Taarabt free-kick came back off the right hand upright for the second time in the encounter.
The half time scoreline was fair reflection of the hosts’ ease and comfortability on the ball, but in terms of chances created Rangers could feel more than aggrieved that they were behind at the break.
HALF TIME: WIGAN ATHLETIC 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers had the bit between their teeth as the second half kicked off – kicking towards their boisterous followers in the away end. A Buzsaky free-kick hit di Santo square in the face in an early warning sign for the hosts.
Buzsaky and Taarabt combined for the latter to fire wide of the right hand upright, another sighting at goal that displayed the potential for Rangers to notch that all important leveller in this encounter.
The Hungarian however remained a shadow of his former self – Buzsaky’s contributions were fleeting and misplaced passes and an occasional inability to track back highlighted how the Hungarian’s game has suffered in recent years.
Fitz Hall – who in fairness was having a useful game – put in a sterling challenge on Rodallega to deny the striker. Unfortunately the after effects of this challenge would linger as he struggled on regardless of the complaint.
More naivety in the tackle drew a foul just outside the area and despite Gomez’s free-kick being dispatched into the wall it once again displayed a worrying aspect to Rangers’ game. Gomez followed this up with a deflected effort that screwed wide beyond Paddy Kenny.
It was an interesting spectacle, blighted with errors but also making for an exciting end to end affair. di Santo was in fine form once again to receive the ball from Gomez and sting the palms of Kenny, who despite not being over-worked had to remain alert.
Hall’s time on the field came to a premature end as Michael Harriman came on for his Premier League bow. The young full-back slotted in on the right with The useful Gabbidon slotting in alongside Perone.
Agyemang nearly created another chance from nothing when he bundled beyond a defender only to be stopped by a last ditch Caldwell challenge. That was proving an interesting duel with the home fans’ nerves evident when the Ghanaian international chased down.
The decisive blow was dealt six minutes after the hour mark when Wigan once again profited from some ponderous defending to double their advantage, and it was the man who seemed to save his best for Rangers that doubled his tally.
A rare slip up from Derry presented Rodallega with the ball on the edge of the area. Franco di Santo took the ball off his toes and waltzed forward a few yards unchallenged before unleashing a powerful drive that flew into the top left-hand corner.
GOAL: WIGAN ATHLETIC 2-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
A goal that was tough to take for the visiting side that had showed tremendous promise throughout but were undone by the basic principles of football. Ruthlessness at one end and concentration at the other.
di Santo was withdrawn by Martinez to a rapturous applause along with jet-heeled wide-man Moses. Connor Sammon and James McArthur came on in their stead while Buzsaky was withdrawn and Jay Bothroyd introduced in a wide role.
There was nearly an immediate impact from the former Cardiff City man who rose to head a cross inches over with the aid of a deflection. Subsequently Perone highlighted the lack of luck coming Rangers’ way when he crashed a header back off the bar – the third time the woodwork had been struck in the encounter.
A chance at least for some light relief as Ben Watson found the corner flag with an errant effort – suffice to say there has been no miracle improvement since his brief spell at Loftus Road.
More changes for both sides in the final ten broke matters up a tad with Smith being replaced by another youngster Bruno Andrade – whether Warnock was attempting to highlight the lack of depth in his squad by doing this is open to debate.
More speculative efforts from distance by Taarabt and Connolly sandwiched a penalty appeal by Derry as he surged from midfield. Referee Oliver adjudged that Al-Habsi got a hand on the ball and issued a corner.
It brought down the curtain on another eye-opening afternoon, as the harsh lessons of football must once again be learned. Taking the fleeting chances you create and defending appropriately at the other end.
Thankfully Rangers can now go into the break with three points under their belt and the promise of further additions to supplement a hard-working but paper-thin squad. That will come as light relief on a disappointing day for Neil Warnock.
FULL TIME: WIGAN ATHLETIC 2-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Ali Al Habsi, Gary Caldwell, Ben Watson, Franco di Santo (Connor Sammon 68), Victor Moses (James McArthur 68), Jordi Gomez (Ronnie Stam 86), Emmerson Boyce, Hugo Rodallega, Mohamed Diame, Adrian Lopez, Maynor Figueroa
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Paddy Kenny, Shaun Derry, Fitz Hall (Michael Harriman 61), Danny Gabbidon, ADEL TAARABT, Alejandro Faurlin, Akos Buzsaky (Jay Bothroyd 72), Bruno Perone, Matt Connolly, Patrick Agyemang, Tommy Smith (Bruno Andrade 80).