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

Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk