McArthur: Players stepped up to the plate

Outstanding - Arouna Kone
Outstanding - Arouna Kone

JAMES McArthur feels Wigan Athletic passed a very significant mental challenge by seeing off Norwich at the weekend.

Wigan’s last-gasp 1-0 victory was their first after an international break since 2009, and took them out of the bottom three on goal difference.

For long periods it looked as though Latics would have to settle for a point, before Arouna Kone took delivery of Jordi Gomez’s astute pass and smashed his 12th goal of the season past Lee Camp.

Considering Latics had some 13 players away on international duty in the lead-up to the game, it was a massive effort to extend their recent run to five wins from the last six.

And McArthur, who was one of the baker’s dozen thanks to his Scotland commitments, admits the squad had to dig deep to come away with the spoils.

“I thought Arouna Kone was outstanding on Saturday, along with James McCarthy and Antolin Alcaraz – the core of the team stepped up for us,” he told the Evening Post.

“Considering we had so many players away on the international break, I thought we did fantastic.

“You need to kick on through that patch in the second half where you’re blowing, and fortunately we managed to do that.

“It’s not easy playing Friday, Tuesday and then Saturday at such a high level. And it has been a long time since we’ve managed to come back with a win.

“The intense training, the travel – in some cases over 12 hours – and the pressure of international football, it does take it out of you.

“But I think that tells you a lot about the character in the squad, especially against a team that I don’t think had many players away.”

Meanwhile, Northampton boss Aidy Boothroyd has hinted he’ll try and extend the loan of Latics goalkeeper Lee Nicholls beyond the end of the season.

Nicholls, an England Under-20 international, has been instrumental in the Cobblers’ rise to third in League Two.

And Boothroyd said: “Wigan are happy with Lee’s development and I have to say I’m absolutely delighted with how he’s done.

“He is getting better and better and we’d love to have him for another year.

“He’s certainly been a key part of what we have been building this season.”