Wigan made the long trip down to the beautiful city of Norwich for today’s Premier League game seeking three points which if other results when their way would move them out of the bottom three.
Roberto Martinez opted to make two changes from the side who ground out a draw against QPR last week, with Figueroa as expected returning to the back three with David Jones perhaps considering himself unlucky not to be restored into central midfield and up front Mauro Boselli making his first league start of the season replacing his fellow Argentinean Franco Di Santo with both displaced players taking their places on the substitutes’ bench.
An even start to the game showed a difference in contrasting sides, Wigan still favouring their passing style with Norwich looking to capitalise on the powerful presence that is Grant Holt, the first chance fell to the home side but Pilkington’s free kick towards the goal area was comfortably intercepted by James McCarthy. Norwich continued to press forwards against a Wigan side seeking only their second win in the last seven games and this pressure almost bore fruit when Tettey shot wide when in a good possession.
Wigan reacted well to this half chance and a good bit of play by Kone and Stam resulted in a Wigan corner and from this Gomez shot over.
This respite was short lived when Hoolahan intercepted Boyce’s poor clearance and a quick through ball to Pilkington made no mistake in shooting the ball past Al Habsi and Wigan were behind.
Norwich were playing with confidence and continued to press the Wigan defence and from another good bit of play, McArthur blocked a Whittaker shot which went for a corner. Snodgrass took the corner and Al Habsi had to be sharp to punch the ball clear.
Wigan looked to get back into the game and good play from Kone found McArthur in space looking for support. When none was forthcoming the diminutive Scotsman opted to shoot but his shot was well saved by Bunn in the Norwich goal.
Pilkington continued to be the dangerman for the home side and when he went down whilst on attack the home fans were baying for a yellow card for the defender however his fall was ruled to have been a dive earning the player a yellow card.
Wigan were under the cosh and once again Al Habsi showed uncertaintiy with high balls when he couldn’t hold a Snodgrass cross, the ball dropping at the feet of Pilkington who will be wondering how he managed to miss doubling his tally.
Ali quickly regained his composure and made a fantastic save at short range from Snodgrass but the away side were being totally dominated by the home side and were looking to hang on to half time.
Shortly before half time Wigan had one of their few chances when Kone and Stam combined well and the Dutchman delivered one of his trademark crosses however Boselli could only head the ball straight into the keeper’s hands.
Half time brought a welcome respite from what was an almost total domination by Norwich of a very poor Wigan Athletic side.
Wigan manager showed his dissatisfaction with the first half performance, replacing McCarthy and Gomez with Maloney and Jones.
The second half started much in the same vein when a long ball saw Holt outpace the static Wigan defence and his shot was well saved by Al Habsi.
Wigan kept their composure though and within a few minutes the substitutions bore fruit when Maloney who opened his Wigan goalscoring account at Carrow Road last season , did so again today when McArthur found the industrious Kone who waited until Maloney was able to come up in support and the Scotsman’s powerful shot nestled in the netting in the back of the goal.
Wigan continued to pile on the pressure with Maloney the catalyst for all Wigan’s positive play but Norwich showed their strength of characterand responded when a Pilkington cross was met unchallenged by Holt but his attempt at a spectacular shot thankfully for the away team flew wide of the goal.
This proved a warning that went unheeded, when the home sides smallest player on the pitch Wes Hoolahan, rose unchallenged between two central defenders and headed the ball past Al Habsi from a Pilkington cross and Norwich had regained the lead once again due to poor defending by Wigan.
Norwich continued to pile on the pressure and again Al Habsi had to be on the top of his game to turn a Johnson shot around the post.
Martinez opted for a last throw of the die, throwing on Di Santo for the anonymous Boselli in an attempt to gain an equaliser and a much need point.
Man of the match Pilkington who had given the Wigan defence a torrid time all afternoon , nearly made it three when a wonderful shot brought out the best again for Al Habsi in the Wigan goal.
Norwich were comfortable on the ball and Wigan were chasing shadows with only a sliced clearance from Bassong troubling his own goal in the closing minutes.
Just when it looked like Wigan couldn’t create a chance, Di Santo put Kone through who looked well set to score but perhaps lacking confidence he hesitated too long and Norwich’s defence managed to clear the ball for a corner.
The full time whistle brought to an end a game in which Wigan were very second best and were indebted to Al Habsi for keeping the score down, due to schoolboy defensive errors which have resulted in the team conceding a minimum of two goals per game in the last seven games and with a goals conceded tally of minus thirty two the joint worst in the division and with another defensive injury, this time to Lopez, the return of Caldwell, Alcaraz and Ramis cannot come soon enough.
Starting line up
Al Habsi, Boyce, Lopez, Figueroa, Stam, Beausejour, McCarthy, McArthur, Kone, Boselli, Gomez
Jones for Gomez, Maloney for McCarthy, Di Santo for Boselli
Man of Match
Al Habsi, one howler but for his saves it could have been a rout
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