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17:46 13th August 2011


CITY started life back in the Barclays Premier League with a useful away point following a 1-1 draw in their curtain-raiser against Wigan Athletic in the DW Stadium.

They found themselves behind in the 21st minute as Ben Watson fired the home side in front from the penalty spot after Ritchie De Laet brought down Di Santo in the area.

But City hit back and Wes Hoolahan rammed home the equaliser just before the break after Al Habsi spilled Steve Morison's excellent cross from the right.

City Manager Paul Lambert said afterwards: "I think it's no more than we deserved. We were well in the game, and to get a point away from home in any league, but mostly this one, is a decent start.

"I was delighted with a lot of things in the game, sometimes we were a bit open, and we might need to tighten up a bit, but the majority of the game I'm happy with."

Lambert also had positive things to say about striker Steve Morison, who had a massive hand in creating City's goal.

He added: "I thought Morison was brilliant. He took a nasty klock early on, but he was a threat the whole game."

There was a familiar look about Lambert's first starting eleven of the campaign, with only two of his summer signings making the starting line-up.

On-loan Manchester United defender Ritchie De Laet partnered Zak Whitbread at the centre of defence, with Russell Martin on the right and Marc Tierney on the left.

In midfield the City boss stuck to the diamond which has served City so well for the the majority of games over the last two seasons, David Fox operating in front of the back four, with Andrew Surman on the left, Andrew Crofts on the right and the mercurial Wes Hoolahan in his free role behind the front two.

Up front the talismanic form of skipper Grant Holt was joined by the second of the summer signings to make the first eleven, Welsh international Morison.

Roared on by the 4,500 members of the Yellow Army who made the long trip to Lancashire, City got an early taste of life in the Premier League when Fox was booked after 30 seconds for a sliding challenge on Di Santo.

After only six minutes Wigan's Lopez and City's Morison clashed challenging for an aerial ball and both were eventually forced to exit down the tunnel for treatment, Morison returning to the fray after a few minutes.

Just after the quarter-hour Wigan threatened on the counter-attack Boyce shaped to shoot only to be denied by a great sliding block from Whitbread. At the other end Morison cut the ball back for Hoolahan but the Irishman totally sliced his shot well wide.

When Wigan did eventually take the lead it was a cruel blow for City, coming as it did from a defensive mistake from De Laet. The on-loan Belgian was last man as a relatively harmless ball fell to him but dallied fatally and allowed Franco Di Santo to rob him and race towards the box.

Although the City defender did his best to recover all he managed to do was to pull the Latics player back in the box and referee Stuart Atwell pointed to the spot. Up stepped Ben Watson to slam an unstoppable penalty past Ruddy, low into the corner.

Wigan meanwhile restored their line-up to the full 11 as Adrian Lopez re-emerged from the tunnel with a bandage on his head following his earlier clash with Morison.

In the 32nd minute Victor Moses took a touch on the edge of the area before firing in a low snapshot which Ruddy got down well to save.

City came their closest yet to getting back on level terms when a Fox free-kick from the left bounced agonisingly acros the six-yard box, eluding everyone and flashing just wide of the far post with Al Habsi scrabbling back across his goal.

But the Canaries showed the character which has served them so well in the past two seasons, refusing to let the goal wobble them unduly and beginning to work their way back into proceedings as the half progressed.

And they got their reward just before half-time when Hoolahan fired them level, ramming home from close range after Al Habsi spilled Morison's excellent low cross from the right.

Wigan Athletic 1, Norwich City 1.

A lively start to the second half saw chances at either end as Durman's drive cannoned off his own skipper Holt after a neat Norwich move and Di Santo headed wide from a great position in the 50th minute for the home side.

Wigan made a double substitution as Hugo Rodallega and Conor Sammon replaced Gomez and Di Santo in the 53rd minute.

Just before the hour the lively Moses embarked on an amazing run into the box beating three City players before Zak Whitbread was able to come across and make a timely block. As Wigan pressed Rodallega tested Ruddy with a low drive in the next attack which the Norwich keeper did well to collect at full stretch.

In the 63rd minute there was an unusual incident when Lopez passed back to Al Habsi and the Wigan 'keeper illegally picked it up in his area. A short free-kick routine ended with Surman curling a shot just over for City.

Two minutes later Wigan defender Boyce could count himself a lucky man when he headed the ball back across his six-yard box and it struck Morison before being hacked away.

In the 72nd minute Leon Barnett replaced Zak Whitbread in defence and within a couple of minutes Lambert made his final two changes as Pilkington and Bennett came on for Morison and Surman.

Wigan defender Lopez was eventually forced to leave the field bleeding heavily from his bandaged head, to be replaced by Ronnie Stam in the 83rd minute.

The home side were a whisker away from taking the lead when Ben Watson's excellent effort with the outside of his boot cannoned back off the upright with Ruddy beaten.

And as time ticked away Wigan went close again as Rodallega nipped in to get the ball from between Barnett and Ruddy, but as he squared to Moses his shot was superbly blocked by De Laet.

Final score:
Wigan Athletic 1, Norwich City 1

Wigan Athletic:
Al Habsi, McCarthy, Caldwell (C), Watson, Di Santo (Rodallega 53), Moses, Gomez (Sammon 53), Boyce, Diame, Lopez, Figueroa. Subs not used: Pollitt (GK), Thomas, McArthur, Jones, Stam.
Norwich City:
Ruddy, Martin, Morison (Pilkington 75), Whitbread (Barnett 72), Crofts, Holt (c), Surman (Bennett 75), Hoolahan, Fox, Tierney, De Laet. Subs not used: Rudd, Johnson, Jackson, Naughton.

Stuart Attwell.

    Data provided by Press Association


    Did you know Norwich City Football Club have appeared in three Wembley cup finals?