Wigan fans made the long trip to sunny Norwich hoping for a much improved performance following on from last weeks home defeat to Swansea which resulted in public criticism from the chairman and a chorus of boos from sections of the Wigan support.
Roberto Martinez unsurprisingly opted to restore the “rested” Moses and Rodallega to the starting line up in place of Sammon and Di Santo and also reverted to a five man midfield. There was still no place in the starting line up for the player of the first half of the season Momo Diame.
Wigan started nervously passing the ball around the back four with midfield seeming to lack the confidence to push upfield and this nervousness was converted into an early error and goal when the normally reliable Ali Al Habsi sliced a kick directly inot touch.Jackson took a quick throw in and man of the match Hollihan chipped the ball over the Omani and the home side were ahead. This sparked recriminations amongst the Wigan players which didn’t seem to bode well for the rest of the game.
Wigan looked on the ropes and Norwich sensing blood pushed forward looking for a second with big burly Grant Holt putting himself about in the manner of an old fashioned centre forward. The vocal home support bayed for a penalty when a goal bound shot hit Gary Caldwell’s arm but the referee Kevin Friend ruled that the ball went to hand and this let off seemed to give Wigan a wake up call as they came more and more into the game with Moses assuming the role as the main creative outlet as Beausejour appeared to be off the pace following an injury sustained in the warm up.
Moses to Rodallega seemed the best hope of an equaliser and on at least two occasions Rodallega’s shots were spilled by the keeper but there was no one near enough to react to put the ball into the net. Gomez also forced Ruddy to drop a stinging shot and this time Rodallega was in place but his shot was cleared by the leg of a defender, scooping over the bar and incorrectly being ruled a goal kick
The first half continued to be end to end stuff with Norwich playing at a frenetic pace and Wigan trying to control the game with a more measured passing style, with the two Mc’s, McArthur and McCarthy controlling the centre of midfield and Gomez looking to play quick one two’s in the hope of creating room for a goalscoring opportunity.
Half time came with the Wigan fans applauding their team off the pitch , mindful that a defeat would be a massive nail in the coffin of their Premier League survival hopes.
The second half started again with Wigan in the ascendancy, however within ten minutes of the re-start Roberto Martinez sprang a surprise replacing the badly fading Gomez with forgotten man Shaun Maloney whose contribution to the Wigan Premier league cause this season so far amounted to less than fifty minutes playing time.
It proved to be an inspired substitution as Maloney increased the tempo of the Wigan play, moving into space, repeatedly beating the offside trap and playing some slide rule balls through to both Rodallega and Moses.
Wigan’s first real chance of the second half fell to McCarthy who grew in stature as the game went on and he broke through a rapidly porous midfield and defence but could only shoot directly at Ruddy in the home goal. This proved a foretaste of things to come as Wigan repeatedly poured forward in search of an equaliser and a beautiful ball from Maloney found Moses who rounded the keeper with ease slotting the ball into the empty net and sending the four hundred travelling fans wild with delight in the away end.
Norwich reacted strongly and a desperate challenge from Alcaraz and a header off the line twice foiled the home side whilst at the other end an overhead scissors kick from Rodallega went narrowly wide.
As the game drew close to the end both sides seemed intent on going for the win and Al Habsi redeemed his first half error with a wonderful reflex one handed save to keep out Morison and at the other end late substitution Diame broke through but wasted the chance and then from yet another Maloney break and cross, the Senegalese international stabbed his shot into the ground which then spooned over the bar robbing him of the chance to seal what would have been a deserved and vital win for a Wigan side.
Full time found Wigan receiving the plaudits from both their and the sporting Norwich fans but the cold light of dawn sees the still bottom of the table and the lack of goals means that a target of a minimum of five wins out of the remaining ten games seems a massive task
Team and Player ratings
Al Habsi..…6, not his best game but a wonder save late on kept us in the game
Alcaraz……6.5, coped with Holt well
Caldwell…..7, marshalled the defence superbly
Figueroa..…6, didn’t get forward like he can.
Gomez…….6, faded badly after the break, withdrawn.
McArthur….6, solid, broke upNorwich’s midfield well.
McCarthy….7, grew in stature as the game went on .
Beausejour..6, quiet game, appeared to be carrying a knock.
Moses…….7, took his goal well.
Rodallega…7, best performance in aWiganshirt for some time.
Maloney…8 and Man of the Match, his substitution turned the game
Diame…..7 only one five minutes and could have won it, needs to be starting
Martinez…7 turned around last weeks performance but needs to put more men in the box if we are going to get the goals we so badly need.
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