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Norwich City extended their unbeaten run in the Barclays Premier League to 10 games with a hard-earned 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic at Carrow Road.
The home side, who were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Aston Villa in midweek, made it five successive home league victories to continue their impressive turnaround with goals in each half from Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan. Wigan, meanwhile, have lost five of the last seven and remain in the bottom three despite equalising at the start of the second half through substitute Shaun Maloney.
There was not much to choose between the sides during the opening stages, before Norway midfielder Alex Tettey, back from a thigh problem, tried his luck from 25 yards with a low effort which flew wide. Norwich though took the lead on 15 minutes.
Hoolahan, who has just signed a new contract extension until 2015, carried the ball to the edge of the Wigan penalty area and overcame a strong Emmerson Boyce challenge to stab a pass through to Pilkington. The winger took the ball in his stride before smashing a left-foot drive past Ali Al Habsi and into the roof of the net.
Wigan looked for a quick response, but there was a break in play when James McCarthy needed treatment after a strong challenge by Bradley Johnson. James McArthur let fly with an angled drive which Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn, replacing the injured John Ruddy, held on to at the second attempt.
Norwich full-back Steven Whittaker had scored a fine individual goal in last week's 4-3 win at Swansea and the Scotland defender surged forwards after 34 minutes to the edge of the Wigan penalty area before drilling a low, angled shot just wide. Al Habsi then produced a one-handed save to turn away a header from Snodgrass after left-back Javier Garrido had lofted the ball to the far post.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez made a double change for the second half as midfielders Maloney and David Jones replaced Jordi Gomez and McCarthy. It was Norwich, though, who again showed early promise as Grant Holt - making his 150th appearance - drilled in an angled effort that Al Habsi palmed behind.
Wigan were level on 51 minutes. Arouna Kone carried the ball into the left side of the Norwich penalty area, before he pulled a pass back to the edge of the box, where Maloney crashed his shot into the net. The goal changed the dynamic of the match as the hosts looked devoid of ideas and uncomfortable in possession.
Norwich put some pressure on Wigan again as the hour mark passed, but Holt could only send a scissors-kick wide from Snodgrass's floated ball to the far post. On 64 minutes Hoolahan restored the home side’s lead. Pilkington broke down the Norwich left, drove to the goalline before delivering a teasing cross that athe Irishman headed home.
Johnson tested the Wigan goalkeeper with a low effort from 20 yards, before Al Habsi produced another fine save to deny Pilkington. With seven minutes to go, Hoolahan was replaced by Jonny Howson and the diminutive midfielder left to a standing ovation.
Sebastian Bassong made a brilliant last-ditch tackle to block Kone in stoppage time as Norwich closed out a fifth straight home win - with Chelsea and Manchester City the next visitors to Norfolk over the hectic festive schedule.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton: "I'm really delighted because Wigan are a very good side and play a similar system to [Aston] Villa. They pass the ball very well and when they got their equaliser early in the second half we had to show great character.
"We had to get back in the game and make sure that we had a good period ourselves, and we weathered it a little bit and came strong. Certainly over the game we had the better chances, and should have really made it a bit more comfortable for ourselves.
"We had really good opportunities to be further ahead at half-time. Their goalkeeper had to make a couple of very good saves, but Wigan showed why they continue to be in this division. They pass the ball very well, they have a system of playing that gets them in the opposition's final third, and they have got quality. We had to match that today.
"We were very, very good at times. Yes we could have made it better for ourselves in that first half, but that's the game. Then we had to get back into it, but in the end we got a deserved winner. It wrapped up a really good performance from us."
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez: "Our start was sluggish and pedestrian: we were very, very, very poor and had our goalkeeper to thank for keeping us in the game. The second half was very different, we started to control the game and Norwich had to start to defend.
"We scored a beautiful goal and were starting to build positive momentum, so our disappointment is the smallest man on the pitch gets a free header in the six-yard box. I felt with our second-half performance we merited something out of the game, but it was a self-inflicted defeat."
|22 Dec 2012||v West Brom (A)|
|26 Dec 2012||v Chelsea (H)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Man City (H)|
|01 Jan 2013||v West Ham (A)|
|12 Jan 2013||v Newcastle (H)|
|19 Jan 2013||v Liverpool (A)|