Wigan Athletic 1-1 Ipswich Town: Norwood returns to earn Town a point
- Credit: Phill Heywood
James Norwood rescued a point for Ipswich Town as the exiled striker returned to the team in style to earn a draw at Wigan.
Town’s No.10, out of the side since the start of October and placed on the transfer having been sent to train with the club’s Under 23s, struck 15 minutes after coming off the bench to ensure John McGreal’s side left the DW Stadium with a point.
It didn’t look like it was going to come, as Town put in an improved display from Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss at Charlton without really looking like levelling matters after Callum Lang’s first-half opener.
But they kept going and, after Lee Evans’ delivery had caused trouble in the Wigan box, Norwood was on hand to sweep home the leveller.
The draw was a deserved one in a game of tight margins and few chances, with the point 12th in the table, nine points from the play-offs.
Next up is an FA Cup replay at Barrow on Wednesday night, as the Blues’ search for a new full-time manager continues.
Interim boss McGreal had called for his players to be accountable when they took to the pitch, looking to right the wrongs of Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss to Charlton at The Valley.
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The interim boss made three changes to his side, replacing Toto Nsiala with Cameron Burgess at the heart of defence, bringing Conor Chaplin in for Sone Aluko and then slotting Joe Pigott up front alongside Macauley Bonne.
That meant a return to 4-4-2 in a game where former Blues Will Keane and Gwion Edwards were named in a Wigan side lead by Paul Cook’s long-time assistant, Leam Richardson.
As the teams emerged from the tunnel, a banner reading ‘fight for the badge’ was unveiled in the away end, leaving an Ipswich side clad in their new black-clad clash kit in no doubt what their minimum requirement was this afternoon.
They started well enough, looking solid with two banks of four and keeping the ball well, without being able to use it to threaten their opponents.
The first shot of the contest finally arrived on 20 minutes, when Keane beat Burgess to a midfield header which ultimately freed Tom Pearce down the left flank. The defender tore into the box before unleashing a vicious shot which Walton needed to turn over the bar well.
That only kept Wigan out for a few more seconds, though, as the hosts took the lead from the corner which immediately followed.
The in-swinging delivery was turned goalwards by former Blue Gwion Edwards at the near post, forcing another save from Walton, only for the ball to fly from the goalkeeper’s out-stretched glove and land perfectly at the feet of Lang to turn home.
Ipswich desperately appealed for an offside flag, which never looked like coming, before further appeals followed a few moments later as Kyle Edwards drove into the box before hitting the deck under pressure from Jack Whatmough. Again, there was no decision coming Ipswich’s way.
The referee was pressured by both sides again when Pearce and Chaplin clashed in the middle of the pitch, with the officials taking several minutes to untangle the miss as the home crowd called for the Town man to be sent off.
Town’s first effort of the afternoon didn’t come until the 36th minute, when Lee Evans’ in-swinging free-kick was turned towards goal by Bonne. Ben Amos was able to spring to his left to hold it, though.
That was as good as it got in the opening period, with McGreal sending the same XI out for the start of the second period but switching his full-backs, with Janoi Donacien lining up on the right and Kane Vincent-Young moving to the right.
There was a new crispness about Town’s play, as they moved the ball around with more purpose than they’d managed for much of the opening period, with their first opening coming as Chaplin fizzed an excellent cross in from the right flank for a group of Town players at the back post. Edwards was the man to make contact with it, but he could only turn it high into the stand behind the goal.
McGreal’s first move was to give Norwood his first Ipswich appearance since the start of October, after bringing the striker back in from the cold, with the striker shooting on target within a few minutes of his introduction as he took aim from a tight angle after collecting Evans’ through-ball.
Wigan had the ball on the net on 70 minutes, as a free-flowing move saw Gwion Edwards feed Keane to turn home, but the offside flag was quickly raised as Town remained just a goal down.
And they took advantage, as another excellent Evans ball into the area caused chaos in the Wigan ranks, allowing Norwood to sweep home his second goal of the season before pointing to the name on the back of his shirt in celebration.
The leveller clearly gave Ipswich a new level of belief but Wigan continued to push and should really have gone ahead again as former Town striker Keane beat Walton to a Max Power free-kick but could only turn his header wide. He really should have scored.
Town applied further pressure late on, with Edwards having a shot blocked and Aluko kicking free air when presented with a chance to shoot in the box, but they ultimately left with a point they would have been happy to take at the interval.
Wigan Athletic (4-2-3-1): Amos; Darikwa, Whatmough, Tilt, Pearce (Humphrys 90+1); Power, Naylor; Edwards (Massey, 80), Keane, McClean; Lang
Subs: Jamie Jones, Watts, Kerr, Jordan Jones, Aasgaard,
Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Walton; Vincent-Young, Edmundson, Burgess, Donacien; Morsy, Evans, Chaplin (Aluko, 62), Edwards; Bonne, Pigott (Norwood, 62)
Subs: Hladky; Penney, Carroll, El Mizouni, Fraser
Att: 10,296 (1,077 Ipswich fans)