Wigan Athletic boss hails defensive rocks after Norwich City draw
Leam Richardson hailed defensive rocks Jason Kerr and Curtis Tilt after Wigan Athletic's 1-1 draw at Championship promotion favourites Norwich City.
The Canaries were two divisions above last term, but required a second-half leveller from Max Aarons to rescue a point after James McClean's goal on the half-hour.
And Latics were good value for their point, thanks in no small part from their two centre-backs, who were pitched together in the absence of last season's player of the year Jack Whatmough.
"It's the first time the centre-backs have played together in the Championship as a partnership," recognised the Latics boss.
"To come up against internationals like Teemu Pukki is a big ask, and I thought they stuck to their task manfully.
"They and the other players have earned the right to play at this level, and they have belief in their own ability as we do."
Goalscorer McClean was also full of praise for the defenders.
"They were outstanding, like they were last week when we lost Jack to injury," he said.
"For these lads now, it is about adapting to the emotion of playing at this level for the first time.
"And the more we get used to that, the better we are going to be.
"It's not a bad start from both of them, they’ve been outstanding in both games after Jack’s unfortunate injury."
Manager Richardson felt his side were good value for the point, on the back of last weekend's opening draw against Preston.
“It was very resilient, hard-working, and hard-fought," he said.
“It took us 15-20 minutes to adapt to their shape, and the pace of the game.
"But once we got the distances, we were resilient in what we were doing and could always catch them on the counter.
“Before the goal, we should’ve scored, but we grew in belief within the game as well.
"You’ve got to run to match the quality of the player - and with the five substitutes coming on, some teams are finishing with a stronger team than what they started with.
“That’s the challenge we’ve got to accept and embrace, and these lads aren’t half accepting the challenge.
“We’ve got to get that belief and education through the week to be better and repeat that Saturday/Tuesday.
"It’s going to be a tough ask but these lads have certainly got the mindset and acceptance to take it in.”
Richardson was also impressed with goalkeeper Ben Amos, who followed up last weekend's man of the match showing with a magnificent save late on, to divert a goalbound effort from Pukki on to the bar.
"I've been told Ben got a touch, and he'll certainly be claiming that," added the Latics boss.
"He made a couple of fantastic saves last week against Preston, and big saves can be as important as goals at the other end."
Latics are back in action on Tuesday ight at Fleetwood Town in the Carabao Cup, before returning to league duty against Bristol City next weekend at the DW.