The Tuckster on a desperate loss at Wigan as City become the first away team not to score at the DW this season…
To my mind, this match was a “must not lose”. At the start of play, Wigan were the team third from bottom and they have a game in hand over the Canaries.
The City team is almost picking itself at the moment , what with injuries and suspensions to Pilkington and Bunn respectively. Alex Tettey is now back from a niggling injury and made the bench, clearly he wasn`t going to dislodge Johnny Howson immediately.
Lee Camp was the only change to the starting line-up from the last match at Sunderland with Kei Kamara continuing to fill the lone striker berth.
Wigan have come into a little bit of form lately, what with their wins over Everton in the FA Cup and then a vital league win over Newcastle – the game that saw “that tackle” from a certain Callum McManaman. Many observers feel that McManaman shouldn`t have been available for this match due to his horror challenge on Haidara but available he was and he started the game.
City had the best of the first half, roared on by a travelling crowd of around two thousand Canary fans. Robert Snodgrass and Wes Hoolahan were the constant threats, ably supported by Kamara who continues to prove what a canny acquisition he has been.
The Wigan back line looked dodgy in the first half but City were unable to exploit this or really test Blazquez in the Latic`s goal.
Michael Turner continued to have a couple of worrying moments against the lively looking Maloney and Kone but managed to get through them.
The biggest decision that referee Howard Webb had to make was when Paul Scharner pulled Snodgrass down on the left. It looked as though Scharner may have been the last man but only a yellow card was shown. The Austrian defender was in trouble again when he challenged Hoolahan later in the half with what looked like a forearm smash. It resulted in just a free kick but he knew he wouldn`t be allowed many more like that.
The teams went in at half time with the game scoreless.
Both teams started the second half unchanged and City started the half in the same vein as they had finished the first. Snodgrass continued to work very hard both going forwards and defensively and Lee Camp looked confident and fairly comfortable with his handling.
City`s work ethic at the start of the second period was impressive, with the City players hunting the ball in packs whenever they didn`t have it.
Wigan were threatening only sporadically and it seemed that the City back four were generally comfortable when faced with opposition attackers. One exception was after a corner when Maloney danced past Hoolahan but the shot was lashed high and wide.
Hoolahan kept the pressure on as he probed and pointed his passes towards the Wigan goal. He almost put Bennett away but Figueroa was alert to it. Wes was involved again when City got up a head of steam and a Snodgrass cross came to Johnson he smashed a powerful shot just wide.
Snodgrass continued to be the man who looked the most likely to break the deadlock for City as he put in a tremendous amount of effort to win the ball at every opportunity. Snoddy has to be in with a shout in the player of the season stakes along of course with Seb Bassong who`s signing has been inspired.
The game appeared to be there for the taking although Kei Kamara wasn`t being as effective in running in behind the Wigan defence as he had been in the first half. You sensed it would only be a matter of time as the clock ran down before we`d see an offensive change.
The most dangerous moment of the game up to this point came from a Beausejour corner, Alcaraz hit the ball goal wards and Howson had to clear the ball off the line. It was a heart in the mouth moment but the visitors survived.
Mention should also go to our fullbacks as they both surged up and down the flanks asking questions in the Wigan half and providing vital support to Bennett and Snodgrass.
You sensed at this point, with just a quarter of the game to go that the Wigan defence was there for the taking and it was time for a change but nothing happened and that the longer this situation went on then there was the chance that Wigan`s fighting spirit would come back to haunt us.
On 77 minutes, Beausejour gained half a yard over Hoolahan and hit a powerful shot that went just wide. It was a warning and helped Wigan push on. Beausejour was becoming more and more influential and his cross towards Maloney was cut out by a terrific block from Michael Turner – it looked a certain goal and there was a hint of handball from Turner but we got away with it.
With ten minutes to go, the needed change happened and Grant Holt replaced Kamara. But almost immediately City were behind as the ball bounced off the ref to Hoolahan. Wes tried to play it to Howson but the ball was lost and Kone burst forward and his shot beat Lee Camp who looked like he could`ve done better. His wrist wasn`t strong enough and he shook his head as the Wigan players celebrated.
It was very, very disappointing as City had had enough possession to get something from this game prior to conceding this sloppy goal. Immediately, Becchio and Tettey were readied for action as Hughton finally felt the need to go for it.
Howson and Hoolahan were replaced with just five minutes to go as Holt started to put himself about although all he succeeded in doing was getting himself booked.
Wigan now looked the better team as the time ran out and City struggled to get hold of the ball.
Three minutes was all the stoppage time given as City went long but they couldn`t make anything happen and Kone was substituted to eat up more time. The goal scorer milked the applause from the crowd as he strolled off the pitch as referee Webb pointed out he`d stopped his watch.
But that was it, Norwich City became the first away team not to score against Wigan at the DW Stadium. It wasn`t a total disaster, not just yet but a win would`ve meant we were virtually assured of staying in the league.
The gap between the teams could`ve been ten points if City had won but it ended up being just four points and they still have that game in hand.
This performance summed up our season, we just can`t score. If only RVW could be with us now…