Hoolahan's Goal Earns Norwich City A Point At Wigan

In the Wigan sunshine, the brightly coloured hordes savoured their belated return to the top flight as their side sauntered to a 4-0 win.

Wes Hoolahan's goal earns Norwich City a point at Wigan Athletic That was 12 months ago but, if Norwich could not replicate Blackpool's astonishing introduction to the Premier League, they provided reminders aplenty of Ian Holloway's enterprising underdogs.

Norwich's yellow-shirted fans are as visible as Blackpool's tangerine-clad support and both were promoted on a diet of progressive football. Enthusiastic in attack and decidedly dodgy in defence, the similarities abound. Norwich were indefatigable in a display of flawed fun that, courtesy of Wes Hoolahan's satisfyingly-thumped finish, yielded a first point of the season.

Paul Lambert rewarded the players who earned their elevation by keeping the majority of his summer recruits in reserve and persevering with the promoted. Only Ritchie de Laet and Steve Morison of the seven additions started.

One of the constants of Lambert's side was quick to make his mark, albeit not in the right way. Barely 30 seconds had elapsed when David Fox chopped down Franco di Santo to incur the first caution of the season.

That challenge notwithstanding, Fox was handed a pivotal role at the base of Norwich's diamond midfield. With Roberto Martinez opting for 4-3-3, both managers were showcasing their passing principles.

A by-product of Norwich's system was the lack of protection afforded to Russell Martin, the right-back, who found the jinking Victor Moses a particularly awkward opponent. The winger's habit of darting infield resulted in one shot that rolled wide.

Yet slapdash defending, not sharp skill, brought the breakthrough. De Laet dallied in possession and had his pocket picked by Di Santo. As the Argentine acceleratedinto the penalty area, the pair collided. Penalty, according to referee Stuart Attwell, and Ben Watson dispatched it confidently, though the City choruses of "One-nil to the referee" indicated where they thought the blame lay.

Nevertheless, the cost of De Laet's casualness was a lesson that went unheeded in the Norwich defence. Zak Whitbread was the next to err, being dispossessed by Mohamed Diamé. The Wigan midfielder, spotting John Ruddy off his line, then unveiled his Xabi Alonso impression, his 50-yard lob dropping just wide of the unguarded goal.

Initially rattled, Norwich responded. Their only earlier effort of note was a shot Hoolahan scuffed wide but Ali al-Habsi's goal was in rather greater danger when Fox's whipped free-kick crossed the penalty area without anyone applying the finishing touch, although both De Laet and Grant Holt came perilously close.

Spurred on, they drew level. The debutant Morison embarked on a rampaging run on the right flank. His deflected cross looped up and was spilled by al-Habsi. Hoolahan was on hand to finish emphatically.

Normal service was resumed after the interval as Victor Moses returned to tormenting Russell Martin. From one, expertly guided, cross, Di Santo angled a header just wide. It proved his final contribution, with Martinez sending for reinforcements in the shape of Conor Sammon and Hugo Rodallega. Sammon, too, had his chance to seal the points, heading Maynor Figueroa's cross over the bar.

The threat, however, remained Moses. Charged with ensuring that Charles N'Zogbia is not missed after his move to Aston Villa, the younger winger made an auspicious start. A superlative, slaloming run would have ended in an early goal-of-the-season contender but for Whitbread's last-ditch tackle.

It was an endearingly open game with Norwich contributing much to the entertainment. There appeared no thought of settling for the draw. City are configured to attack and it could have yielded a winner. Morison, Andrew Surman and Holt tried their luck. Wigan, though, came closer with Watson's first-time shot rebounding off the post, while De Laet made goal-saving blocks to deny Moses and Hugo Rodallega.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Richard Jolly at the DW Stadium, for The Observer on Saturday 13th August 2011 17.33 Europe/London

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