Norwich and Wigan played out a pulsating 1-1 draw at Carrow Road on Sunday afternoon. While most eyes were on matters elsewhere, with City and United in action battling for top spot, these two sides put on a real show with an open, flowing game throughout.
Norwich made five changes, as for the visitors Rodallega replaced Sammon, who wasn’t even on the subs bench, while Franco Di Stanto made way for Victor Moses. There was still no place in the starting eleven for Momo Diame since his return from the African Cup of Nations.
The home side had the better of the opening exchanges and took advantage of their early dominance by punishing a series of defensive blunders as early as the tenth minute. Al Ali Habsi aimed a chipped ball out towards Emmerson Boyce. His kick got nowhere near its intended target and went out for a throw.
While Boyce held his arms out asking “what was that?” Norwich reacted quickly and took a quick throw in. Not only had Boyce switch off, but most of the Wigan defence had too. When the ball was crossed into the box skipper Gary Caldwell seemed to be unsure whether to head or kick the ball away but his hesitation did nothing but allow Wes Hoolahan to nip in and chip the ball over Al Habsi and make it 1-0.
The latics came into the game more in the latter stages of the first half. Hugo Rodallega looked as threatening as he’s done for several months and it’s the kind of form we’ll hopefully see from him for the remainder of the season as Wigan search for vital goals to stay in the division once more. Rodallega, along Moses and Beausejour all had efforts well saved by Ruddy.
The introduction of Shaun Maloney was a big turning point in the game. He possess quick, clever feet and caused problems for the Norwich defence from the moment he was introduced. With him on the pitch as well as the likes of Moses, Beausejour and Rodallega and full backs streaming forward to help, Norwich couldn’t always commit men forward in an attempt to win the game for fear of leaving themselves open at the back.
Indeed Wigan pulled level midway through the second half. Substitute Shaun Maloney ran into two Norwich players but, just as it looked like he would be dispossessed he somehow managed to play a perfectly weighted through ball in the direction of Victor Moses, who rounded the goalkeeper and slid the ball home left-footed to give Wigan a much-deserved leveller.
Late on there were chances for the visitors to snatch all three points. Emmerson Boyce headed over when any sort of effort on target would have been rewarded with a goal. Meanwhile, substitute Momo Diame had arguably the best two chances of the match to give Wigan all three points.
Firstly he ran at the home defence and dodged his way brilliantly around three Norwich defenders and, just as it looked like he could go on and beat another, he chose the wrong option and sliced an effort wide of goal, with options unmarked in the middle also. Latterly he ran onto a Shaun Maloney cross and hit his effort into the ground and just over the bar from 8 yards out when it seemed easier to score.
Norwich weren’t without their chances to win it with a series of late set pieces, including a couple of free kicks in dangerous areas but they came to nothing. The home side were a little lucky to finish the game with a full quota of players as left back Adam Drury put in a really poor, high challenge midway through the second half. That could have been the catalyst to drive Wigan on to victory.
Any point away from home should be considered a good one in the Premier League, particularly at Carrow Road, which is always a difficult place to go. I can’t help feeling this was an opportunity missed for Wigan though. The sheer number of chances squandered during the game was the real reason they didn’t go home with all three points.
It was an impressive display from Wigan and something they’ll need more of in these final ten games of the season. McCarthy and McArthur ran the show in midfield against the industrious Wes Hoolahan. Wigan’s energy and sheer desire to go on and win the game lead to some Norwich players going down with cramp in the second half, which underlines Wigan’s second half dominance.
With trips to Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal next on the road, it won’t get any easier! Attention will certainly focus more to the remaining home fixtures, with only Manchester United to fear at the DW Stadium you’d have to say that’s Wigan’s only real chance of staying in the division by turning around home form that has seen the club pick up just nine points from fourteen home fixtures.
Norwich City: Ruddy, Drury, Whitbread, Ward, Naughton, Crofts (Bennett 69), Surman (Pilkington 70), Hoolahan, Fox, Holt (Morison 59), Jackson
Unused subs: Steer, R, Martin, Johnson, Wilbraham
Goals: Hoolahan 10
Starman: John Ruddy
Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Beausejour, McArthur, McCarthy (Diame 85), Gomez (Maloney 56), Rodallega, Moses
Unused subs: Kirkland, Stam, Watson, Di Santo, McManaman
Goals: Moses 68
Starman: James McArthur