Norwich City 2 Wigan Athletic 1
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City survived a nervy finish to grind out a 2-1 Championship home win against plucky Wigan Athletic at Carrow Road on Tuesday.
Jacob Murphy's brace inside the first 11 minutes had put Alex Neil's men in control but Jordi Gomez's second-half strike set up a tense finale with Michael McGovern denying Will Grigg deep in stoppage time with a flying stop.
Neil made one change to the starting line up that beat Cardiff City 3-2 at the weekend. Fit-again Swedish international full-back Martin Olsson replaced Robbie Brady, who suffered a leg injury in the early stages against the Bluebirds. Summer signing Nelson Oliveira again missed out on a place in the matchday squad, following his recent move from Benfica, with Cameron Jerome leading the line. Steven Naismith was another notable absentee after being overlooked for the weekend home win.
City needed a positive start after the manner of Cardiff's late salvo and they were in front barely three minutes into the proceedings when Adam Bogdan's heavy first touch in trying to control Jake Buxton's back pass presented Murphy with the simplest of chances to roll the ball into an empty net from seven yards.
Neil was clearly desperate to avoid a repeat of the way his side allowed Cardiff back into a one-sided contest when he berated Wes Hoolahan after a sloppy touch presented the Latics with a chance to pick out the prolific Will Grigg, who was just unable to anticipate ahead of Timm Klose.
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The riposte was brutally swift from the hosts. A suitably scalded Hoolahan surged forward, exchanging passes with Jonny Howson before Bogdan parried his angled lash skywards where Murphy was again the sharpest to react in heading home from point blank range.
There was a wonderful sense of liberation washing around Carrow Road in the immediate aftermath of the young man's second goal. No wonder, given the fraught nature of Saturday's win over Cardiff and that bitter trip to Birmingham prior to the international break. Howson and Jerome both burst free, with the Latics struggling to stem the creative flow, but the shaky Bogdan escaped further punishment.
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The on-loan Liverpool keeper then kept Hoolahan at bay on the half-hour mark when he clawed the Irishman's low shot around his far post.
City could perhaps be forgiven a degree of indulgence, in the midst of their growing dominance, when Jerome blazed over after Olsson's run deceived the Latics' backline.
Neil's men were jolted out of such a mindset when Ivo Pinto slipped and Michael Jacobs elected to surge forward before being crowded out - the home fans incensed at the midfielder's unwillingness to put the ball out of play.
Pinto returned to the fray after treatment with Jacobs' unpopularity scaling new heights once Norwich had cleared the resulting corner.
For all Wigan's measured possession it was Norwich who carried the greater punch and Jerome almost added a third when Murphy's deflected shot spiralledjust beyond the striker.
Neil made two changes at break with Pinto replaced after his heavy fall, along with the struggling Alex Tettey, as Ryan Bennett and Alex Pritchard were introduced.
City started the second stanza like a side urged to finish the game as a meaningful contest by their manager, with Hoolahan and Martin both going close.
But those underlying concerns surfaced again with each passing minute and Norwich's declining measure of control. Neil summoned Youssouf Mulumbu from his warm up but in the meantime McGovern superbly tipped Yanic Wildschut's goalbound curling effort over his bar.
Hoolahan made way seconds later for the more combative presence of Mulumbu. But the midfielder's spirit of adventure proved costly in the 72nd minute when his misplaced pass triggered a flowing counter that ended with Gomez slamming past McGovern from 25 yards.
That early vibrancy had now dissolved into more angst and anxiety with Neil increasingly an animated figure at the front of his technical area.
Jerome could have released the growing tension when he carved a half-volley over from Murphy's deep cross before Pritchard dragged a right-footed shot inches wide.
McGovern then superbly denied Grigg deep in stoppage time with another flying leap as the hosts clung on.
• Norwich: McGovern, Pinto (Bennett 45), Martin, Klose, Olsson, Howson, Jacob Murphy, Dorrans, Tettey (Pritchard 45), Hoolahan (Mulumbu 68), Jerome. Subs (not used): Ruddy, Bassong, Lafferty, Josh Murphy.
• Bookings: Howson (foul on Jacobs, 63); Martin (foul on Wildschut, 77)
• Goals: Jacob Murphy (2, 11)
• Wigan: Bogdan, Buxton, Power, Gilbey (Davies 85), Grigg, Gomez, Macdonald (Wildschut 54), Jacobs, Warnock, Burke (Byrne 57), Burn. Subs (not used): Jaaskelainen, Le Fondre, Flores, Garbutt.
• Bookings: MacDonald (foul on Jacob Murphy, 17); Gilbey (foul on Dorrans, 27); Power (foul on Hoolahan, 55)
• Goal: Gomez (72)
• Time added on: 3 minutes / 5 minutes
• Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
• Attendance: 25,992