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Paul Lambert and Bolton boss Owen Coyle before kick-off. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Norwich City 2, Bolton 0: City provide the warmth to ensure blip is forgotten

Ross Perkins
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
12.21 PM

A bitterly cold afternoon in Norfolk and there I was, for the first time since I had a job, able to get down to Carrow Road and watch my beloved Norwich City.

I bought some grub from the supermarket and headed into the Barclay Bar to watch the early kick-off as soon as the turnstiles opened. Normally confident of a good performance this time I felt a sense of trepidation come over me.

Having been one of the 800 or so to make the trip to the north east on Wednesday it was understandable. Against Sunderland we were poor; second-best to the ball, we didn’t take whatever chances we managed to forge and just looked like we didn’t care. Hopefully we weren’t about to enter a blip.

How different Norwich were against Bolton, though. The fans, the players and especially Mr Lambert. He wanted a reaction – a good one – and what a brilliant reaction it was.

With four changes to the team that lost 3-0 at the Stadium of Light we started off brightly, looking to get Bolton on the back foot. For most of the game we created chances, but couldn’t take them. However, the real disaster seemed to come as our two centre-backs, who have been absolutely solid when they’ve played, both picked up injuries and were forced off before 40 minutes were up.

Did this hinder us? Not at all. I would definitely label this one of our best performances this season.

Some may agree, others may not, but I will explain why this is my judgement. First of all, Lambert had to throw players into positions they’re not used to. Kyle Naughton and Russell Martin played in the middle of the back four whilst Elliott Bennett took up position at right-back. Despite this makeshift defence, we kept a clean sheet – only our second of the season – but it showed Norwich’s resilience; our passion to keep the opposition out at all costs.

Secondly, the players showed the character to not only respond to a bad defeat, but also a frankly uninspiring first half and come out all guns blazing. The hoofball seemed to stop and we started playing some decent, flowing passing football. The Yellow Army responded, with cries of ‘On The Ball, City,’ getting progressively louder, and we could sense a goal coming. The chances kept coming, with Norwich having 23 attempts on goal, one of which was a header that any true Canary would have put their house on for Grant Holt to put away. I knew that a goal had to come sooner or later, it just had to. Then, in a fine move, Simeon Jackson put a ball in from the right and Andrew Surman, whose initial shot was blocked, followed up with a tidy little volley to put Norwich a goal to the good, and how good that felt.

Now Carrow Road was really alive. We drowned out the fading Wanderers’ chants with our own ‘We’re The Green and Yellow Army’ and looked to banish the memories of midweek. Not long after that, we forced a corner: David Fox with the delivery, it came to Martin who turned, shot, and despite Adam Bogdan’s save, Anthony Pilkington pounced to secure our fifth home league win of the season. What followed was pure ecstasy.

The exodus of Bolton fans prompted shouts of ‘cheerio, cheerio, cheerio’ and our dominance was converted into a solid lead and three valuable points. One of my favourite moments happened off the field. A rather large gentleman of the north braved the cold and removed his upper apparel, only for medics to ‘advise’ him to put said clothing back on. That’s health and safety for you.

Finally, my man of the match had to be Jackson. Tirelessly running throughout the game, he created chance after chance and did everything but score. He’s been top notch and I hope he bangs a few more in before the season’s end.

If you would like the chance to report on a Norwich City game this season - home or away - please contact Peter Raven on peter.raven@archant.co.uk