Wigan Athletic were held to their third successive draw with Norwich City’s Welsh international Iwan Roberts cancelling out Andy Liddell’s opener to give his side a share of the spoils and extend his side’s unbeaten run to 6 games while Wigan have now gone 10 games in the league since they last tasted defeat.
Canaries manager Nigel Worthington was presented with the Division One Manager of the Month Award for September prior to kick off, a reward for his side’s recent run of form that had seen them record 4 victories and a draw from their last 5 outings.
With only one point separating the two sides a close contest was expected although if the first half was anything to go by Wigan were going to stroll home at a canter.
With the same side that had played out a goalless draw at Cardiff earlier in the week Wigan had their first sight of goal with only 6 minutes on the clock when Jimmy Bullard cracked his long range effort narrowily wide of the left post.
Nathan Ellington did likewise 12 minutes later and Bullard saw another shot from distance also fly the wrong side of the mark only a couple of minutes later.
Wigan’s pressure paid off in the 25th minute after Bullard earned a corner which Peter Kennedy swung over to the far post where he picked out ANDY LIDDELL who made no mistake from 6 yards out, blasting his snap shot into the roof of the net for his second goal of the season.
Liddell’s goal was his 63rd in the league since signing for Wigan 5 years ago which moved him into second place in the club’s all time league goalscoring chart, edging past Peter Houghton and now only needs 3 more to equal the record set by David Lowe during his two spells as a player.
Latics had a chance to double their lead in the 33rd minute when Geoff Horsfield sent in a cross into the middle of the area and onto the head of the Tony Dinning who timed his run into the danger zone to perfection but fortunately for the visitors the midfielder’s finishing wasn’t on a par to his build up play and his header flew waywardly wide of keeper Robert Green’s right hand post.
Norwich were denied an equaliser 3 minutes later when Phil Mulryne picked out Iwan Roberts with his corner to the far post only for John Filan to save with his leg.
At the other end of the field Canaries keeper Robert Green pulled off a fantastic save to keep out Geoff Horsfield. Steve McMillan capitalised on a mistake by Marc Edworthy to set up Horsfield just inside the area.
With the Norwich defence at sixes and sevens the former Birmingham City forward, remembered by the travelling faithful for his extra time equaliser in the play-off final less than 18 months ago, unleashed a low shot which seemed destined for the bottom corner. However Green had other ideas, throwing himself full stretch to his right to somehow fingertip around the upright for a corner.
The visitors almost made their hosts pay for failing to bury that chance a couple of minutes later when a Paul McVeigh corner found Mulryne in the box who touched the ball on to Damian Francis but his attempted acrobatics failed to cause Wigan any real problems.
The second half proved to be a different story with Nigel Worthington’s men coming back into the game, a change in personnel and a word in the right ears certainly seemed to have done the trick.
The front pairing of McVeigh and the on loan signing Darren Huckerby were causing a few problems at the back for Wigan but it was one of the Wigan rearguard and Norwich’s former captain who almost got the next goal of the afternoon.
Jimmy Bullard sent a free kick into the danger zone which was knocked on by Horsfield as far as Matt Jackson but his header from close range narrowily cleared the bar with just the keeper to beat.
Norwich then came into their ascendancy with their front line tearing the Wigan defence apart with relative ease. Huckerby left McMillan for dead down the right wing before sending over a cross to Iwan Roberts at the far post but Lady Luck was shining on Wigan this time as the ball floated beyond it’s intended target.
Minutes later and Iwan Roberts picked up a poor back header from the normally reliable Ian Breckin but the Welsh international hammered his shot from outside of the area against the bar.
Norwich continued to push forward and Huckerby tested Filan just after the hour mark, the Australian keeper blocking his shot and Roberts raced in for the loose ball but only managed to head over from close range.
Their pressure paid off moments later when Huckerby barged through the Wigan defence and with the goal opening up for him the 27 year old striker opted to tee up IWAN ROBERTS who gratefully fired home.
Ellington almost put Wigan back in front minutes later but his free kick was somehow kept out by another fine save from Green and 8 minutes later The Duke saw a header comfortably collected by the Norwich keeper.
Both sides pushed for that all important winner but neither could find their way through their opponent’s defence and at the full time whistle a draw seemed a fair result.
Results elsewhere meant that Wigan dropped two places to fifth place but with Sheffield United losing their home game against Sunderland the top six are now only separated by 4 points.