Wigan Athletic climbed out of the relegation zone after Arouna Kone’s late goal against Norwich City.
The Ivorian ran on to Jordi Gomez’s pass and fired past Lee Camp at the near post. The stand-in goalkeeper will surely feel that he should have done better, as Wigan moved out of the relegation zone on goal difference, despite an uninspired display in front of their own supporters.
Callum McManaman recovered from an ankle knock sustained against Newcastle United to take his place in the Wigan side for the visit of Norwich. McManaman made headlines for a reckless challenge on the Magpies’ Massadio Haidara, but figured in an unchanged line-up from the one which won that game 2-1.
Norwich goalkeeper Camp came in for the suspended Mark Bunn, who was sent off against Sunderland last time out. That was Norwich’s only change from the side which held out for a draw with 10 men for over an hour at the Stadium of Light.
Norwich came out of the traps the quicker, despite Wigan’s need being the greater. The Latics entered the fixture three points adrift of safely and there was tentativeness in their early play.
The Canaries, who need at least one more win themselves to be sure of safety, took the game to their hosts, with Wes Hoolahan particularly influential.
For all their positive play, Chris Hughton’s side failed to calve out a genuine chance in the first half.
The only real opening fell to Wigan: Emmerson Boyce cut the ball back to Kone who tried to place it in the far corner but his effort rolled just wide.
Shaun Maloney was Wigan’s primary creative spark, while Jean Beausejour repeatedly found himself in space down the left but the sides went in level at the break.
Maloney spurned a good chance after the interval as he ballooned the ball up and over the bar after finding himself in a good position in the penalty area.
As Wigan were still struggling to find their rhythm Norwich threatened, Hoolahan taking the ball superbly and almost playing Elliott Bennett through, only for Wigan to clear. Bradley Johnson then shot just wide of Joel Robles' far post as the Canaries stepped up a gear.
The hardworking Kei Kamara found himself free in the area and headed wide after some lacklustre defending from Wigan, not for the first time in this game.
Antolin Alcaraz rose to head a Beausejour corner goalwards and his effort was hacked off the line by Jonny Howson as Wigan began to build up a head of steam.
Some incisive play down the left resulted in Beausejour picking out Gomez who should have shot first time. However, the Spaniard took a touch and his shot was blocked by Michael Turner.
Wigan’s only real period of pressure resulted in the only goal of the game.
It was Kone's 10th goal of the season as he got on the end of a Gomez pass and blasted a fierce shot past Camp. The goalkeeper looked rueful, knowing that he should really have kept the effort out.
This was by no means a stellar performance from Wigan who took a long time to get going but the victory lifted them out of the relegation zone - above Aston Villa on goal difference - as Roberto Martinez’s side look to produce another end-of-season escape.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Shaun Maloney (Wigan) – a lively performance from the playmaker who was one of the few sustained threats in a lacklustre Latics display.
WIGAN ATHLETIC: Robles 6, Kone 7, Alcaraz 7, McCarthy 7, Maloney 8, Gomez 6, McManaman 6, Boyce 7, Beausejour 7, Figueroa 6, Scharner 5. Subs: Di Santo N/A, McArthur 6.
NORWICH CITY: Camp 5, Martin 7, Turner 7, Bassong 7, Garrido 7, E. Bennett 6, Howson 6, Johnson 6, Snodgrass 6, Hoolahan 7, Kamara 7. Subs: Holt 6, Becchio N/A, Tettey N/A.
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- Wigan Athletic