BLACKBURN Rovers found themselves 3-1 down after a nightmare first half at the JJB Stadium.

Two goals in as many minutes from Denny Landzaat and former Rovers striker Marcus Bent left the visitors stunned, and then a third from Paul Scharner eight minutes before the break put Wigan in cruise control.

And to make matters worse for Rovers boss Mark Hughes, Benni McCarthy also missed a penalty in what was a first half horror show.

From the outset, Rovers looked off the pace in all departments and they were left to rue a missed opportunity from Roque Santa Cruz after just eight minutes, the Paraguayan blasting his shot over the bar from 10 yards following a low cross from David Bentley.

Rovers then fell behind two minutes later when Landzaat raced clear of the visitors' defence and coolly slotted a low finish past Brad Friedel.

Within 90 seconds, Friedel then found himself picking the ball out of his net again.

Ryan Nelsen and Stephen Warnock both failed to deal with a ball through the centre and Bent showed strength and perseverance to finish with aplomb.

Rovers could have halved the deficit in the 23rd minute when referee Mark Clattenburg awarded a penalty for a foul by Emile Heskey on Chris Samba, but McCarthy then scuffed his spot-kick and Chris Kirkland pushed it wide of the post.

By the time Scharner headed in Wigan's third in the 37th minute from a Ryan Taylor free kick, some Rovers fans were already heading for the exits.

Those that stayed were given a lifeline right on the stroke of half time when Santa Cruz pulled a goal back with a stunning shot on the turn from the edge of the box.

Wigan: Kirkland, Boyce, Scharner, Bramble, Kilbane, Valencia, Landzaat, Brown, Taylor, Heskey, Bent. Subs: Aghahowa (for Heskey, 41), Granqvist, Olembe, Koumas, Pollitt Rovers: Friedel, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Bentley, Reid, Savage, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, McCarthy. Subs: Olsson, Mokoena, Dunn, Derbyshire, Brown