Sunday, 31 March 2013

Latics 1-0 Norwich - Kone to the Rescue

Arouna Kone was once again the hero after his late winner lifted the Latics out of the drop zone and increased the pressure on the teams just above them as they secured back to back league wins.
A dull affair was decided with only nine minutes left when Jordi Gomez played in Kone, who fired delightfully past stand in Canaries keeper Lee Camp.
Arouna Kone
The Ivorian followed up his last gasp winner versus Newcastle before the international break with his 10th league goal of the season and he looks set to break Henri Camara’s Latics top flight record of twelve goals.

The visitors started the brighter of the two sides, with the returning international Latics unable to settle into a rhythm, and they looked set to continue their wretched run of having not won following an international break.  

Paul Scharner was cautioned very early on when he brought down the tricky Robert Snodgrass, but the Canaries were unable to capitalize from the resulting set piece.  

The Latics gradually found their passing game as the opening half came to a close with Callum McMannaman miscuing and Kone unable to direct an effort on target.  

Antolin Alcaraz was excellent all afternoon, nullifying the Canaries attacking threat and he provided essential cover on a number of occasions for an erratic Scharner.  

The frustration for the home fans continued well into the second period as Martinez’s men were unable to create much despite sustained periods of possession. With only 20 minutes left to play the home side cranked up the pressure on their visitors, with first Alcaraz going close with a header and then James McCarthy going close from distance.  

Michael Turner sensationally blocked Gomez’s effort inside his own six yard box as Chris Hughton’s men looked as if they would secure their fourteenth draw of the season.  

Despite poor service all afternoon Kone was still alive to the play and was the grateful recipient of Gomez’s delightful through ball after a mix-up involving referee Howard Webb. Keeper Camp will perhaps feel he should have done better with the arrowed effort on his first full league start for the Canaries. 
Antolin Alcaraz
The visitors failed to test Joel Robles and didn't register an effort on target all afternoon, as the Latics finally picked up their first  home clean sheet of the season.

His goal was nothing more than Kone deserved, and as he made way in added on time for Franco Di Santo he soaked up the applause of the adoring DW.  

It was a difficult watch for many but the fact that his side were able to come out on top without being at the best in an attacking sense was a huge positive for Martinez who spoke after the game: “I don’t think we were stylish as we normally are, but what we showed is incredible character. Every player found a way to help keep Norwich very quiet.” 

The Spaniard went on to praise his lone front man: “It was that little but of quality at the other end that decided it. Just as it seemed it wouldn’t quite fall for us, the ball from Jordi Gomez was fantastic, a clinical ball, and the finish from Arouna Kone was just what he deserved for his work ethic.”

Kone was the focal point of everything that the Latics did well today and he is going to be the key man for Wigan, as they prepare for three consecutive trips to the capital, before they next take to the field at DW against Spurs at the end of April. 

The month kicks off with the league game at QPR before the historic Wembley FA Cup Semi Final with Millwall rounded off with the trip to West Ham.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Latics v Norwich City - Premier League

LaticsInANutshell is back and returns previewing the visit of Norwich City, in what is a must win game for the Latics as they prepare for another fight to stay amongst the elite. 

Arouna Kone’s dramatic late winner against Newcastle before the international break, fired Roberto Martinez's men latest great escape act into action.
Arouna Kone
Martinez will be looking for his side to carry through the momentum that they have gathered over the last few weeks, and will be hopeful of naming the same XI for a third consecutive game. 

Callum McMannaman and Antolin Alcaraz are both being monitored ahead of the visit of the Canaries, who themselves could well be dragged into the relegation scrap with defeat on Saturday. On loan keeper Joel Robles looks to have won the battle for the number 1 spot for the time being, and Martinez will be looking to stick with a settled side during the run in. 

Despite having never beaten their visitors in the league the Latics will be confident of securing the victory that would see them move out of drop zone until Sunday at least.  

It is a crucial phase of the season for the Latics, with a clash with fellow relegation strugglers QPR next in the league followed by the FA Cup semi-final with Millwall. Martinez’s men will be seeking a first clean sheet on home soil this season, and will be looking to improve on a record of 13 points from the DW (the joint worst in the league with QPR).   
Antolin Alcaraz
But it will be tough against a Norwich side who still need the points to guarantee another season in the top flight who are currently in 12th  in the table, and were impressive in their draw away to Sunderland despite playing with ten men for long periods. 

Since his return from the African Cup of Nations striker Kone has been in sensational form and the Latics will be once again looking to him to lead the line.  

Over recent weeks there has been a confidence about the Latics that has seen an upturn in fortunes and I believe they will have enough to overcome Norwich and really drag the Canaries and others around them into the dogfight which will take centre stage at the business end of the season.