Norwich City cannot afford to lose against escape artists Wigan
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Well what a big game it is tomorrow against Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic.
I said in my column last Friday that in my opinion this is a must not lose game for Norwich. The Canaries are sitting comfortably in 12th position in the Premier League, seven points in front of tomorrow’s opponents, who occupy the last relegation position.
But if Wigan were to beat Norwich tomorrow and then win their game in hand, they would then only be one point behind Chris Hughton’s men.
Time will tell whether Wigan can produce the same sort of miracle they did in 2011 to avoid relegation with victory away at Stoke on the very last day of the season to maintain their Premier League status.
They have won only three home games all season, and only QPR have won fewer games on their own patch.
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The Latics have had a terrific run in this season’s FA Cup, and will face Millwall in a fortnight’s time at Wembley Stadium to try and reach the final for the first time in the club’s history. Will the Wigan players have one eye on the semi-final? Will their players go out there trying to make sure the don’t get injured, will they pull out of tackles which they would normally go in for?
Let’s all hope so, as this will give a fresh and raring to go Norwich side a big advantage in my opinion.
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Looking at the relegation battle that’s going on at the foot of the Premier League table, I think one club that’s in massive danger of dropping into the bottom three is Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland. They were very poor against Norwich in their last game and are only four points above the relegation zone.
Their next five games are probably as tough as any club in the top flight. Tomorrow they entertain Manchester United before away fixtures against Chelsea and then Newcastle – which is and always has been the biggest game of the season for both sets of supporters for obvious reasons. Then it’s Everton at home and Aston Villa away.
Looking at how they played against the Canaries a couple of weeks ago I can’t see them picking up too many points from these five games.
If Wigan do get out of trouble again I can see the Black Cats in the Championship next season.
• SNODGRASS’ RASH APPROACH PROVED SO COSTLY FOR SCOTLAND
I was in Glasgow last Friday night working at the Scotland v Wales World Cup qualifying game.
I think games between the home nations are always fiery encounters and this wasn’t going to be an exception. From the very first whistle the challenges went flying in. One player who really put himself about was Norwich’s own Robert Snodgrass. To be fair I couldn’t fault his work rate but one or two of his challenges were just a little bit late.
He received a yellow card in the first half for a lunge on Joe Ledley who he had already caught flush on the nose with a flying elbow a few minutes before which had gone unpunished. People will say that the game changed when on 73 minutes Snodgrass once again slid in late for a tackle, but this time it was on Reading’s Chris Gunter who was just inside the Scots’ penalty area. It was a poor challenge by Robert as Gunter had already crossed the ball which had then been cleared by Scottish captain Gary Caldwell.
It was an obvious foul and after consulting with his assistant the ref awarded Wales a penalty and also showed Snodgrass his second yellow card and then the red, one he really could have no complaints over. Aaron Ramsey confidently despatched the spot kick to bring Wales level, and it only took Chris Coleman’s men another 60 seconds to make their numerical advantage tell with Hal Robson-Kanu powering in what would be the winning goal with a superb header.
However, for me the game changed with another incident involving Robert Snodgrass. About five minutes before he received his marching orders, he picked up a ball just inside the Welsh penalty area, on the left hand side. With only one thing in his mind he pulled the trigger and was ever so unfortunate to see his lovely strike hit the inside of the post before being cleared away from danger.
Had Robert’s strike gone in it would have made it 2-0 to Scotland and there really would have been no coming back for the Welsh boys.
• CANARIES WILL HOPE NEW SIGNING HAS THE MICHU EFFECT
So Chris Hughton has started his rebuilding and strengthening of the squad already for next season.
Last week the club announced the signing of Dutch International striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Portuguese side Sporting CP. I have to be honest, I’ve never seen him play so it’s hard to give my opinion. He’s cost the club a record transfer fee of £8.5m which is a big old sum of money for Norwich City to fork out. He can play as a striker or as an attacking midfielder, the role that Michu plays for Swansea.
If he has the first season that Michu has had everyone will be delighted. However the one thing that does concern me is he’s never scored more than 15 league goals in a season. He played for Vitesse Arnhem and FC Utrecht in The Eredivisie before moving to play for Sporting in The Primeira Liga. Up to now he’s played 200 games in his career, scoring 86 goals, which isn’t a bad return. One thing is for sure he’s going to strengthen the forward options for the Canaries – and area where they have struggled badly this season.