'He's told me all week he'd score' - McGreal on Norwood's equaliser at Wigan

Macauley Bonne gives goalscorer James Norwood a hug after the final whistle at Wigan

Macauley Bonne gives goalscorer James Norwood a hug after the final whistle at Wigan - Credit: Phill Heywood

Ipswich Town interim manager John McGreal revealed James Norwood came good on a promise to score in this afternoon's 1-1 draw at Wigan Athletic.

Norwood, who had been transfer-listed and exiled to the Under-23s, was recalled to the first-team squad after the Blues failed to produce a shot on target during Tuesday night's limp 2-0 loss at Charlton.

The 31-year-old started on the bench at the DW Stadium but soon made an impact after replacing Joe Pigott in the 63rd minute, adding an injection of energy and sweeping home a 77th minute equaliser after a corner was not cleared.

"It had to be him!" didn't it, laughed McGreal afterwards, Norwood having pointed to the name on the back of his shirt in celebration.

"He told me straight away in there 'I told you I score goals!' I said 'I know that son!' He's told me all week.

"Listen, I only know what he does on the pitch. I've come up against him numerous times at Colchester and he's always been a thorn in my side, he's always seemed to score against me.

"He's said to me all week 'I'll score at the weekend' and I've gone 'let's relax, let's get you in training first and see where you are'. Because he hasn't played much, obviously. He's had a couple of Under-23s games recently, but I think his last (senior) start was West Ham (U21s in the Papa John's Trophy back on September 14).

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"We had to look after him, but I thought half an hour was there for him to come on. He's been able to do that. He just gives something different.

"He's just sitting there calm as you like now in the dressing room. He does what he does. He scores goals. He tells me his record is really good.

Goal! James Norwood scores for Ipswich after his return to the first team at Wigan

Goal! James Norwood scores for Ipswich after his return to the first team at Wigan - Credit: Phill Heywood

"It's up to the other guys now. We need goals not just from that forward line, because if Macca (Macauley Bonne) doesn't score then we're looking at who else is going to bring goals to the team.

"We've been working on set plays because they are a big part of the game. I thought we were unlucky on one or two occasions today.

"We need goals from other members of the team though, not just the striker force."

Asked for his assessment on the team's performance, McGreal said: "It was a little bit of night and day, to be fair. For 20 minutes, again, we started okay. Then it's a little bit of a sloppy set-piece goal. That's something we've been working on, but it just shows you that when players do knock off then it gives opportunities to the opposition. That proved the case. Prior to that we defended them well and just after that we defended another corner well. It was just one lapse in that first half in what was a tight game.

"You come in at half-time and you're thinking 'we have to play'. We've shown tonnes of endeavour, loads of effort, but a little bit of quality was needed. I thought, second half, we saw a lot more people taking a pass, taken a ball under pressure and you could actually start seeing the guys' quality come through.

"I actually thought we finished the game really, really well to be fair."

When it was put to McGreal that his team had shown a lot more heart than in midweek, the Blues boss said: "Absolutely, correct. Wigan's stats are ridiculous when it comes to second half goals, they're off the scale, so you're wondering 'are they going to up the tempo?' But our guys were there standing toe-to-toe with them.

"The goal came at a great time for us. I thought we were just starting to get into good positions but weren't overly showing that bit of quality. So it was a great time to score.

"We sat ourselves in, we were in a great shape throughout the game, we protected Christian (Walton) really, really well, that back eight, then on the counter we had the two lads that can run the channels or hold it up. I thought we were able to do that."

Ipswich Town caretaker Manager John McGreal at Wigan during the first half. 11/12/2021 Wigan Athleti

Ipswich Town caretaker Manager John McGreal at Wigan during the first half. 11/12/2021 Wigan Athletic v Ipswich Town - Credit: Phill Heywood

On his decision to switch to a 4-4-2 formation, McGreal said: "I said to you the other night that they needed a bit of a shock. The fans shouldn't have come down (to Charlton) and not seen a shot on target - that's criminal really from a team of our quality. So I had to shake the pack and go with two boys up top and look to get balls in the box if we could.

"First half we didn't do that, but there was tonnes of endeavour and lot more hard work. Second half, Kyle (Edwards) had a brilliant chance where the lad blocked it. It just shows you, when you put the ball in the opposition's box there can be a little bit of panic. We were able to do that and I was really pleased with the way the boys finished."

Assessing the performance of starting front two, Bonne and Pigott, he said: "I thought they were a little bit sloppy in the first half, to be fair. JD (Janoi Donacien) was putting little round the corner balls in, something we had worked on, but it just bounced off one or two times and we weren't able to gain the territory. I thought the guys started the second half well, to be fair, but when you get towards 55/60 minutes and you've still not got near the goalkeeper you have to make the change.

"I thought the two lads who came on (NOrwood and Sone Aluko) added more value, added more quality and it was fitting we got the result."

Sam Morsey battles with James McLean
11/12/2021 Wigan Athletic v Ipswich Town

Sam Morsey battles with James McLean 11/12/2021 Wigan Athletic v Ipswich Town - Credit: Phill Heywood

Asked if he expected to still be in charge for Wednesday night's FA Cup second round replay at Barrow, McGreal said: "Listen, it's not about me. This is not about me whatsoever. This is about the football club. It's just about me looking after the football club while they make decisions. I've stepped in. I wasn't going to turn the club down after what they've been for me. I live in the area, I've got builders in and out the house who are massive Town fans, so I wasn't going to turn my back on the Town. There's not a chance.

"We need to get the club in the right position. You can now see the shackles breaking off. They're now landing on the ball and taking a touch and getting their heads up. Brilliant. Me, Kieron (Dyer) and (Reg) Rene Gilmartin are trying to get the team to a level for the new guy where they are fearless, where they can go on and dominate games and dominate the play. 

"There are tonnes of games left to make things happen. We're just trying to steady the ship. It didn't work Tuesday but they've reacted in a brilliant way today. 

"I'll speak to (chief executive Mark (Ashton). Mark is always in contact. I'll just keep trying to prep the team the best I can. You just don't know. A day in football is a long time and a lot of things can get done in 24 hours. We'll just have to wait and see what Wednesday brings.

"The pleasing thing for me is that the noise levels have raised throughout the week. It's noisy in that dressing room now. That shows you they are starting to enjoy playing their football. That's great because we can't stand still. We've got things to do. We need to get ourselves moving."