A fantastic early strike from Latics’ new South Korean pocket rocket was enough to silence the in-inform Canaries and earn a famous win in Latics’ fight to avoid relegation from Sky Bet Championship.
Latics moved up a place in the table and now sit six points from safety. Is it too big a gap? Time will tell but one thing for certain is that if Malky Mackay’s men can show the same work ethic and togetherness – not to mention the level of quality that was displayed for the goal – they will give it everything they have.
Norwich had won their previous six Sky Bet Championship matches but only had one clear-cut opportunity on goal after a quite superb rear-guard action from Latics.
The goal really was a stunner. The ball was worked forward down Latics’ left side and reached Leon Clarke, who had been the only change from Saturday’s win at Blackpool. He flicked the ball on to Kim, who let it bounce once in the box before executing a perfectly timed angled volley with the outside of his boot which flew past England goalkeeper John Ruddy into the top corner.
It was a strike fit to win any game, but the fact that Latics had to hang on (ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo) for 87 minutes (including five agonising additional ones at the end of the match) underlines just what a good performance this was.
Norwich had no chances for one reason only: Latics worked tirelessly from 1 to 11 (or 33) to break down attacks, often doubling or troubling up on a Canaries side manager Malky Mackay believes is the strongest in the division.
The amount of times a Norwich attack broke down before it even reached the back four was so encouraging as Jermaine Pennant and James McClean not only added quality going forwards but worked back to help their full backs.
As for the back four, to think this was just the third time they played together is impressive and gives huge ground for optimism. Harry Maguire and Jason Pearce were immense at the heart of defence, Emmerson Boyce put his body on the line time and time again while Gaetan Bong looks like a very, very good footballer.
Latics had a couple of other sniffs at goal, notably through James McClean, Marc Antoine Fortune almost robbed Ruddy in a one on one situation in the second half, while substitute Chris McCann did dispossess him late on but the ball was cleared as he bore down on goal.
As for Norwich – and this may be difficult to believe given that they have three strikers who have EACH scored five goals this calendar year – really had one chance, and that fell to midfielder Bradley Johnson in the second half, who should really have put away a flicked on free-kick at the far post.
Ruddy even came up in the 5th minute of extra time as Norwich pumped in a late free-kick, but typically really, Emmerson Boyce launched himself at the ball, and while all his teammates went together to celebrate the final whistle with Latics’ brave 150 travelling fans – the biggest of big ups go to them, by the way – Boyce was receiving treatment on the ground after receiving a boot in the face for his troubles. Sums it up really.