Match Report: Wes Hoolahan sends Norwich to seventh heaven

Norwich City 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Carrow Road

How is it that Wes Hoolahan, at the age of 30, still has only two Republic of Ireland caps to his name? That was the obvious and baffling question after the diminutive Dubliner inspired Norwich City to the victory that lifted them to seventh place in the Premier League, two points off a Champions’ League position.

On the day he signed a new long-term deal with the club, Hoolahan was everywhere, Norwich’s best midfielder, their best attacker and at times their last line of defence; his doggedness created their opening goal, and his Jack-in-the-box spring that brought them the winner.

As the Canaries made it five straight home wins in an unbeaten league run of 10 games, however, their manager Chris Hughton was at pains to play down their lofty position. “Our form has deserved it,” he said, “but for clubs like ourselves, it’s about keeping as big a gap as you can between us and down the bottom. There’s no shame in that. We have to work very hard for the points that we get. We’re showing good quality in a workmanlike side. We won’t get carried away. We know how we have to compete in every game.”

Hoolahan competed, and showed quality. After 15 minutes, he appeared to have lost the ball to Emerson Boyce as he attempted to weave a path through Wigan’s defence; but he battled to retrieve it while on the ground and poked it forward to Anthony Pilkington, who crashed it left-footed into the roof of Ali Al-Habsi’s net.

Norwich should have been further ahead at the break, and would have been but for Al-Habsi’s point-blank save from a Robert Snodgrass header (laid on, naturally, by Hoolahan). Two half-time substitutions gave Wigan new life, however, and one of those, Shaun Maloney, levelled the scores with a scorching shot six minutes after the interval.

Norwich were reduced for a spell to standing like statues while Wigan wove their passing movements around them. But that spell was broken decisively in the 64th minute when Pilkington crossed for Hoolahan  to head Norwich back in front.

Al-Habsi made another outstanding save, this time from a Bradley Johnson shot, before pulling off an even better one from Pilkington as Norwich began to turn the screw. But for all their dominance, the hosts still needed an excellent tackle by Sébastien Bassong to prevent Arouna Koné from plundering an injury-time equaliser. “We’d have been kicking ourselves if that had gone in,” said Hughton.

The Wigan manager, Roberto Martinez, described his side’s defeat as “self-inflicted” but also claimed that “on the balance of play, we deserved something for our second-half efforts”.

The difference, he believed, was that Norwich defended their six-yard box better – partly because “we have four senior centre-halves out injured, and it showed”. That tally rose in the last minute when Adrian Lopez was carried off with a hamstring injury. The Latics also lost their midfielder James McCarthy to an ankle injury caused by what Martinez called “a really nasty challenge” by Johnson.  McCarthy will have a scan today to determine the extent of the damage but could miss two or three games.

Norwich (4-4-1-1): Bunn; Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Snodgrass, Johnson, Tettey, Pilkington; Hoolahan (Howson, 84); Holt (Morison, 90).

Wigan (3-4-3): Al-Habsi; Boyce, Lopez, Figueroa; Stam, McArthur, McCarthy (Jones, 46), Beausejour; Koné, Gomez (Maloney, 46), Boselli (Di Santo, 72).

Referee: Lee Probert

Man of the match: Hoolahan (Norwich)

Match rating: 7/10

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test