Wigan 2-0 Preston: Latics secure Championship status with derby win
Leon Clarke's early tap-in sent Wigan on their way before Lee Evans added a second with 22 minutes to play
Last Updated: 22/04/19 7:58pm
Wigan secured their Sky Bet Championship status in style with a 2-0 derby-day triumph over a Preston side who played for most of the game with 10 men after Ryan Ledson was sent off.
The Latics were already 1-0 up when Ledson lost his head - and almost removed that of Kal Naismith with a dangerously high foot on 34 minutes that left referee Andf Madley with no option.
Naismith had laid Wigan's opening goal on a plate for Leon Clarke inside 11 minutes after a mistake in the Preston defence.
And the win was secured midway through the second half when Lee Evans rifled home from 12 yards to kick the party into full swing.
With news of Rotherham's home defeat to Birmingham filtering through, Wigan could celebrate retaining their Championship status after suffering relegation in each of their last two second-tier campaigns.
Wigan flew out of the traps and were ahead with virtually their first attack.
A mistake in the visiting defence presented the ball to Namsith, who only had Declan Rudd to beat.
However, rather than take on the shot, Naismith squared the ball unselfishly to Clarke, who tapped home from all of a yard.
Chey Dunkley's header from a Reece James corner needed Ben Davies's intervention, while Gavin Massey almost got in but the ball would not run for him.
The game's second flashpoint arrived on 34 minutes, when Ledson was given a straight red card for almost separating Naismith's head from the rest of his body.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, North End fashioned a decent chance to equalise, only for Callum Robinson to produce a complete air shot in front of goal.
Wigan could and should have been two up within moments of the restart, when Clarke's shot was well saved by Rudd.
The rebound fell to Sam Morsy who, instead of shooting, fed Naismith, who tried to take a touch he didn't really need, and the chance had gone.
Preston almost made him pay when, from a Paul Gallagher corner, Ben Davies headed goalwards only for Clarke to nod the ball off the Wigan line.
And Wigan pretty much put the game beyond their 10-man opponents with a second goal at the three-quarter mark.
Evans rifled the ball into the roof of the North End net with a clinical finish, and the Welsh international almost laid on number three for Clarke.
However, from a great shooting position, the on-loan Sheffield United striker found only the side-netting.
Clarke missed the target again from the opposite side of goal, after great work from Antonee Robinson, but it mattered not as Preston had nothing left.
Paul Cook: "We're delighted. When you start off a season like we did, so strong and playing so well, we all thought staying up might be a formality. But then you get into the winter, injuries kick in to key players, and it's a really tough time for the club.
"In the lowest moments we all thought about possibly getting relegated, but football is a long, long season, and you have to stay the pace. League tables don't tell lies, everyone finishes where they deserve to finish, and we're delighted to be staying up."
Alex Neil: "Ryan makes a rash decision, he's sent off, and it's made it too difficult for us and that's happened far too often this season. If we're going to challenge in the top six…that's six times I've had to work with 10 men.
"We're contributing to our own downfall too many times. I thought we actually started quite well, and in the first 10 minutes we were quite threatening. They get their goal, from a mistake, it's probably the first ball they've put in our box, it's landed straight at their feet."