WIGAN ATHLETIC 0-1 BURTON ALBIONNasser El Khayati ended Wigan Athletic's unbeaten home League record with the only goal of a closely fought encounter at the DW stadium. The hosts were probably in the ascendency as the game enter the last twenty minutes but when substitute Timmy Thiele burst away on the end of Robbie Weir's pass on 74 minutes the German showed great calmness to get into the box and pull the ball back for El Khayati to sweep the ball home from eight yards and secure all three points for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's men.
In dreadful conditions with the pitch lashed by rain at several stages in the game Albion had to produce a sterling rearguard effort at times to keep their promotion rivals at bay. The work ethic that the Brewers boss has instilled in his side once again paid dividends though as they frustrated their hosts but also looked dangerous in attack when they pressed high and forced errors from a normally resolute Wigan backline. Indeed El Khayati's goal was the first scored for six games by a visiting side and for a Burton side who have been short of goals in recent weeks it was a welcome return to scoring and a not insignificant one at that.
After what seemed like an age Robbie Weir returned to the side after finally completing his three match ban at Bury on Saturday. He came straight back into a midfield alongside Tom Naylor and Calum Butcher who also returned to the starting line-up having been on the bench at Gigg Lane. In defence Shane Cansdell-Sherriff failed to recover from the knock that forced him off on Saturday and also missing from the starting line-up was Jerome Binnom-Williams meaning returns to the team for both Tom Flanagan and Anthony O'Connor, the latter asked to fill in at left back.
Wigan were out of the blocks very quickly and with barely a minute on the clock the pace of Middlesbrough loanee Yanic Widschut took him into the Burton penalty area but fortunately for the Brewers his cut back to the edge of the box was just out of range for Tim Chow to get a first time left foot shot away.
Albion weathered the early Wigan storm and the lashing rain that accompanied the start of the game and began to press high and force errors from the Wigan back line. Central defender Chris McCann picked up a yellow card with just a quarter of an hour on the clock after bringing down Stuart Beavon on the edge of the centre circle as the Burton man tried a quick turn to launch the men in yellow and black forwards.
Skipper John Mousinho was not far behind him for a strong but what looked reasonably fair challenge three minutes later.
The Brewers were growing into the game but they nearly forced a breakthrough on 24 minutes, Mark Duffy cutting inside off the left hand side to curl a right footed shot towards goal with Donervon Daniels getting a head to the ball to take it wide of goal meaning that Latics keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen was not required to make a save.
As the rain returned after briefly abating Beavon required treatment after taking a heavy challenge and on returning to the action was almost on the end of a pass that cut the Wigan defence wide open apart from the covering Daniels who did just enough to clear the danger on the edge of his own eighteen yard box.
Ex Derby winger Michael Jacobs was becoming more prominent as Wigan began to switch the focus of their attacks to the right hand side and two teasing crosses in quick succession on the half hour mark forced Mousinho firstly to awkwardly head clear and keeper Jon McLaughlin to hold on cleanly to a curling delivery as the wet conditions showed little sign of easing.
A quickly taken Burton free kick almost did the trick on 33 minutes. Duffy and O'Connor were behind it and the makeshift left back was able to run unchecked inside the box before finding Flanagan who stabbed a low shot towards goal, his effort blocked and cleared by Max Power inside the six yard box. Instantly Wigan were able to break and Wildschut was rapidly bearing down on goal until a superbly timed tackle from Weir stopped him in his tracks.
The Brewers were looking lively in attack but all too often a stray pass was their undoing in the final third allowing Wigan to use their pace on the flanks to counter. Jacobs went closest yet two minutes from the break with a curling right foot effort that rippled the top of the net as it beat the outstretched hand of McLaughlin.
A scrappy end to the half followed with neither side able to find any fluency when referee Mark Haywood brought the first 45 minutes to a close.
Half time: Wigan Athletic 0-0 Burton Albion
The hosts quickly won themselves a corner right at the start of the second half and will have felt that they should have made more of the situation as Chow rose highest at the back post pretty much unmarked but could not somehow steer a header towards goal.
Former Latics trainee Phil Edwards was forced to bring a surging run from Wildschut to an end just outside the box as Wigan continued to press and Jacobs free kick that tried to catch out McLaughlin at his near post almost did the trick with Albion's keeper punching clear at the expense of a corner under severe pressure in a crowded six yard box.
The pressure from Gary Caldwell's men was mounting as a succession of corners were sent in to the Burton box to try and prise open the stubborn Brewers backline. With Beavon ploughing the lone furrow up front it was hard for Albion to relieve the pressure that the home side were generating as the game neared the hour mark.
In an attempt to stem the flow and give the Brewers some forward impetus Lucas Akins was introduced on 58 minutes in place of Butcher who had pretty much played as a right sided midfielder throughout his stint on the pitch.
Wigan made their first change on 64 minutes and there was a Burton feel to the substitution as Stapenhill lad Craig Davies took the place of Alex Revell at the head of the Latics attack.
As the Lancashire skies opened again soaking the DW Stadium pitch it was becoming more and more difficult to play flowing football although both sides to be fair made a good fist of trying to keep the ball down and create something. Akins persistence on the right won Albion a corner on 69 minutes but from it Edwards could only head wide from fifteen yards out.
Albion threw on Timmy Thiele for the last twenty minutes to give the Wigan defence something different to think about after a typically tireless shift from Beavon leading the line superbly.
The German it was who helped the Brewers break ruthlessly from a Wigan corner on 74 minutes. Albion's pressing and closing down forced a mistake and Weir it was who sent Thiele scampering away on a forty yard run deep into the Wigan box before pulling the ball back to EL KHAYATI who had the simple task of finishing beyond Jaaskelainen. Typical counter attacking football at its best. It was also the first goal conceded by the Latics in six home games.
Wigan quickly made a double change with Will Grigg and Francisco Junior sent on to try and retrieve the situation. Craig Morgan and the dangerous Jacobs the men to make way. Wigan had a quarter of an hour to save themselves.
There were six minutes to go when Wigan came closest yet to finding the net. Substitute Grigg got into space on the left and pulled the ball back dangerously for Max Power. His shot cannoned off Flanagan and fell nicely for left back Reece James who watched on as his effort smacked the outside of the post.
El Khayati's evening finished prematurely as he was the subject of Burton's third and final change with Callum Reilly, perhaps unlucky to lose his place after Bury sent on to help see the game out if at all possible.
There was more than a little bemusement when the fourth official indicated a minimum of seven minutes of additional time, a signal that really lifted the home crowd although Albion almost snatched a second as Naylor caught David Perkins in possession on half way and got to the edge of the box with neither Reilly or Thiele able to apply the finishing touch to his cross.
As Wigan launched a high corner kick into the box McLaughlin displayed exemplary handling in soaking conditions to snuff out the danger. Akins squandered an excellent chance to put the game to bed as well when James made a hash of a header but his right foot effort only found the side netting. In the end it didnt matter as the referee brought the game to a prolonged end moments later and Albion were back to winning ways and back up to third in the Sky Bet League 1 table.