David Cuffley, EN Sports Writer
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Grant Holt came off the bench to prove the Norwich City hero for the third time in this Premier League season when he struck the winner against Queens Park Rangers at Carrow Road.
Holt, introduced after 70 minutes along with Wes Hoolahan as the Canaries struggled to regain their early rhythm, took just three minutes to get on the scoresheet thanks to an assist from his fellow substitute.
His fourth goal of the season gave City their first win in five matches, at the expense of their fellow promoted team.
Russell Martin, who scored the only goal in the corresponding fixture last season, put the Canaries ahead in the 15th minute when he swivelled to fire home from six yards after Rangers failed to deal with Andrew Surman’s corner.
City lost their way either side of half-time and QPR levelled on 59 minutes when Jamie Mackie struck the post and defender Luke Young scored from the rebound.
A double substitution proved crucial for the Canaries, however, when Holt and Hoolahan were introduced with 20 minutes left and combined to produce the winner three minutes later.
Holt had just had a header blocked on the goalline by Shaun Derry when, moments later, Hoolahan crossed from the right and he knocked the ball home from inside the six-yard box.
City boss Paul Lambert made three changes to the eleven who started the 2-1 defeat by Arsenal, with defender Ritchie de Laet and Andrew Surman making their first appearances since the 1-0 home defeat by West Bromwich Albion in September, and striker Simeon Jackson starting a Premier League match for the first time.
Defender Kyle Naughton, midfielder David Fox and forward Wes Hoolahan were relegated to the substitutes’ bench and Russell Martin was handed the captain’s armband.
Rangers made two changes with Radek Cerny replacing Paddy Kenny in goal and Shaun Derry back in midfield for suspended skipper Joey Barton, with Anton Ferdinand captaining the side.
Heidar Helguson (facial injury), Luke Young (knee) and Danny Gabbidon (thigh) were all passed fir, but Adel Taarabt was ruled out by a stomach bug.
De Laet was given the right-back slot with Martin continuing alongside Leon Barnett in the centre of defence. City opted for a 4-4-2 formation with Pilkington on the right, Surman on the left and Jackson partnering Morison in attack.
Traore had the first shot of the afternoon in the opening seconds, but fired harmlessly across the face of the goal.
Rangers forced the first corner in the fourth minute, Gabbidon connecting with Wright-Phillips’ kick, but Johnson headed away.
As City threatened for the first time, Pilkington won a corner after his free-kick was only half-cleared. Barnett battled to get in a header from Surman’s kick, but was off balance and it drifted well wide.
Jackson brought Cerny into action with a volley from 20 yards after Johnson had chested down Crofts’ ball, but the keeper was right behind it.
Morison almost produced a repeat of his goal against Arsenal in the 10th minute when he chased Crofts’ clearance and showed great strength to rob Ferdinand and home in on goal but Cerny smothered his shot.
City went close on 13 minutes when Pilkington’s ball was headed clear and Crofts’ first-time shot was deflected wide for a corner.
They forced a second flag-kick when another Crofts shot took a ricochet wide and this time it delivered the opening goal for Russell Martin, the same man who scored the winner in the corresponding fixture last season.
Ferdinand made a hash of attempting to clear Surman’s corner and Martin swivelled to shoot home from six yards for his second goal of the season.
There was a moment of alarm at the other end when Wright-Phillips went tumbling over goalkeeper Ruddy’s challenge after a flick from Helguson, but the ball was already out of play and referee Clattenburg was unimpressed.
A half-cleared Surman free-kick gave Crofts another shooting chance but he sliced a left-footer off target.
City were dominating, with Surman involved in most of their best moves and he teed up Morison for a curling shot from 20 yards that only just cleared the bar.
Morison and Mackie earned a quiet word from the official after a shoving match on the halfway line.
A foul by De Laet on Traore gave Rangers a free-kick on the left-hand corner of the penalty area, but Wright-Phillips curled it straight into Ruddy’s hands.
De Laet was penalised again one minute before the break for a challenge on Wright-Phillips and it almost proved costly as the same player’s free-kick drifted right across the six-yard box with neither Ruddy nor his defenders moving to clear it, and Derry unable to get a touch at the far post.
Wright-Phillips threatened again on the stroke of half-time when he set off on a determined run and his shot was spilled by Ruddy, but Mackie, following up, hit the side netting from a tight angle.
• Half-time: Norwich City 1, Queens Park Rangers 0
Rangers began the second period with more urgency and there was a brief scare for City when Barnett challenged Wright-Phillips and both players missed the ball, with the defender having to stretch out a leg to poke it out of harm’s way as the Rangers man tumbled over.
Traore got away from De Laet rather too easily in the next attack but only succeeded in running the ball out of play and tumbling over an advertising hoarding.
A determined challenge by Crofts set up Jackson for a run at goal but his shot from the edge of the area was a couple of yards wide.
Morison tried to force his way into the area after a powerful challenge by De Laet but the striker was crowded out, and the home crowd began to vent a little frustration as City appeared to have lost their early momentum.
Hill headed over from a Wright-Phillips corner but it was the full-back’s last contribution as he made way for Bothroyd, while City made their first change as De Laet walked off a shade uncomfortably to be replaced by Naughton.
In the 59th minute, Rangers drew level as Young scored for the second week running.
Barnett’s clearance went only as far as Mackie, who drilled in a low shot that rebounded off the inside of the post, but Young was first to the rebound and coolly tucked it away.
A free-kick on the corner of the Rangers area offered City a rare chance to regain the ascendancy but Pilkington fired it high into the River End seating, to accompanied groans.
Lambert made a double change with 20 minutes left as Hoolahan and Holt replaced Pilkington and Jackson.
Naughton was lectured for a challenge on Wright-Phillips but referee Clattenburg had yet to produce a yellow card.
Holt had been on the field just three minutes when he restored City’s lead, with an assist from fellow substitute Hoolahan.
As City stepped up the tempo suddenly, Holt and Surman combined to set up Morison, who battled away before floating a cross to the far post, where Holt’s header was blocked on the line by Derry. But still the ball was not cleared and Crofts found Hoolahan on the right side of the area, and his cross into the six-yard box was bundled in by Holt for his fourth goal of the season.
Rangers made two changes in quick succession as Buzsaky and Smith replaced Derry and Wright-Phillips.
Surman headed over from a cross from Holt after more good work from the substitute, and as City began to look more confident again, Morison glanced a header over the top from Hoolahan’s centre.
Holt brought Cerny into action once again with an angled shot from the left, but it lacked the power to trouble the keeper.
Still Rangers felt they could rescue a point and Naughton did well to deny Helguson a clear header at the far post, before Faurlin shot into the crowd.
Naughton was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon for a foul on Smith three minutes from time.
• Result: Norwich City 2, Queens Park Rangers 1
• Norwich City: Ruddy; De Laet (Naughton, 58), Barnett, Russell Martin, Tierney; Pilkington (Hoolahan, 70), Crofts, Bradley Johnson, Surman; Jackson (Holt, 70), Morison. Subs (not used): Rudd, Fox, Bennett, Wilbraham.
• Queens Park Rangers: Cerny; Young, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Hill (Bothroyd, 57); Derry (Buzsaky, 77); Mackie, Wright-Phillips (Smith, 79), Faurlin, Traore; Helguson. Subs (not used): Putnins, Orr, Hall, Puncheon, Bothroyd.
• Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
• Attendance: 26,781
• Goals: City: Russell Martin (15), Holt (73). QPR: Young (59)
• Bookings: City: Naughton (87)