Photo Gallery: Norwich City beat the clock - and Everton - with double shock
11:29 25 February 2013
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Manager Chris Hughton has spoken time and again this season about the fine margins that determine Norwich City’s success or failure in Premier League matches – a feeling echoed by Everton counterpart David Moyes in the build-up to Saturday’s encounter.
And that narrow line between victory and defeat was seldom better illustrated than in the closing minutes at Carrow Road as the Canaries finally put a bleak midwinter – if not the accompanying temperatures – behind them.
City, a goal down with six minutes left, produced a dramatic fightback by scoring twice to secure their first league win since mid-December.
Had they lost 1-0, as it seemed they would for much of the afternoon, they would have been in the uncomfortable position of heading to Old Trafford next Saturday to face leaders Manchester United on the back of a run of 10 league games without a win, and just five points clear of the bottom three.
So the importance, mathematically and psychologically, of substitute Kei Kamara’s first goal for the club and skipper Grant Holt’s first for 11 weeks, cannot be over-stated. The league table suddenly has a much healthier look.
Moyes, watching his team’s outside chance of a Champions League place slip further away, made much of the extra seconds played by referee Lee Mason beyond the minimum three minutes of stoppage time announced at the end of the match – just enough for Holt to jab home the winner and trigger some delirious celebrations on and off the pitch.
But given the amount of time wasted by his own goalkeeper in the second half – one was reminded of Neville Southall in his slow-motion heyday – added to the four substitutions after the interval, it was something of a surprise it was only three added minutes to start with. And even schoolboys are taught to play to the whistle.
More valid was Moyes’ criticism of his players for failing to consolidate their lead when they had the chance, and failing to deal with a succession of crosses into the penalty area in the closing stages of the game after Kamara’s introduction had produced a greater sense of urgency from City.
The statistics may show that Everton had 55 per cent of possession, but though City goalkeeper Mark Bunn made one smart early save from Nikica Jelavic and a more straightforward stop from substitute Kevin Mirallas with the score at 1-1, he was not exactly peppered with shots.
City had threatened first on five minutes when Wes Hoolahan, not totally comfortable in a wide left role, found Robert Snodgrass and it took a brilliant block by Sylvain Distin to divert his shot wide.
Everton hit back with interest and when Jelavic chested down Distin’s through-ball, Bunn saving low to his right.
The recalled Jonny Howson, who scored in the corresponding fixture last season, had the misfortune to see his powerful drive strike the back of Holt, who was later denied when ’keeper Tim Howard smothered his effort from 12 yards.
Six minutes before the break, however, it was Everton who went ahead. From a Leighton Baines free-kick, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar combined on the left and the overlapping Baines’ cross went over the heads of Sébastien Bassong and Bradley Johnson to give Leon Osman a free header past Bunn.
With nearly an hour gone, City’s Luciano Becchio, paired with Holt in a two-pronged attack but given little chance to impress, made way for fellow newcomer Kamara, who immediately produced a scissor- kick from a Snodgrass cross that brought Howard into action.
Kamara then headed just wide from a Hoolahan cross when he might have done better, but at least his pace and energy rejuvenated City.
Darron Gibson, Seamus Coleman and Steven Pienaar were all guilty of wayward shooting as Everton looked to make the game safe, and they paid the price.
With six minutes left, substitute Anthony Pilkington’s determination earned City a corner, Snodgrass took the kick from the left and Kamara timed his run well, getting ahead of Fellaini to head forcefully home.
In stoppage time, Everton substitute Mirallas tested Bunn with a powerful drive, but City had the bit between their teeth and after Distin made another timely block on Holt, the skipper snatched a dramatic winner.
Stoppage time had ticked past three minutes when Russell Martin swung in a cross from unfamiliar territory on the left, Bassong jumped for the header and Holt poked the ball home.