Norwich City box clever yet again to claim win
PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:07 10 September 2010
Huddersfield Town 1, Norwich City 3: When we all sit down and review this season over a pint or a keyboard, the words "clinical finishing" will probably be up there alongside "inspired substitutions" as the reasons why Norwich City have spent so long looking down at the rest of League One.
When we all sit down and review this season over a pint or a keyboard, the words "clinical finishing" will probably be up there alongside "inspired substitutions" as the reasons why Norwich City have spent so long looking down at the rest of League One.
When you have three players in double figures it's as obvious as the look of dejection on Lee Clark's face that the finishing is quality. Reproducing it week after week is impressive - and if you want to know how effective, then best ask the BBC for a DVD of this game.
For 20 minutes City were on the rack - just as they were at Carrow Road when Huddersfield visited just before Christmas.
And just like that game, City battled their way back into the game, this time making it to half-time without conceding again, and then ground Huddersfield down until it was time to strike.
Like a boxer, they drew the sting, fought back and launched counter-attacks.
The jabs softened Huddersfield up, until the mighty blows knocked the wind out of them.
Each one of them was exact and true, administered at the business end of swift passing moves and incisive running. Teamwork, emphasised Lambert post-match.
And it was clinical. The ratio of goals to shots suggests that when City shoot, they invariably score - six efforts on target, half of them successful. Huddersfield had six efforts on target - and only one was successful.
When they sniff blood, they go for the kill. In the space of 16 minutes they had turned this game on its head: from being a goal behind they were 3-1 and Huddersfield were dead.
Grant Holt is the perfect example of how City operate: he's in everyone's face, jabbing away to the left and the right, roughing them up and then, when his chance comes, he strikes.
His finish for City's equaliser - after Neal Trotman had scored after just three minutes - was classic centre forward play.
Korey Smith spread the ball wide to Michael Rose who found Wes Hoolahan down the left in the area.
Holt knows what Hoolahan can do and that he would find him, so took up the perfect position: in came the low ball, out went the foot, up went 3,000 pairs of arms behind the goal.
Right place, right time, right result.
Holt then turned provider for Stephen Elliott, the man who might just be perfectly placed to accept the super-sub sobriquet, given that he is on loan from Preston until the end of the season "to help" people like Holt and Chris Martin, whom he replaced.
Paul Lambert deflected the question in pretty much the same way that Fraser Forster nonchalantly flicks away a goalbound shot, but his only substitution of the game was inspired: Martin had worked himself into the ground without reward, so on came the fresh legs of the highly experienced Elliott, a lightweight with speed and power - and a clinical finish of his own.
Within seven minutes of his arrival Holt had scored, and before the day was done he would be celebrating a double of his own that could be hugely significant.
His first came after arguably the best piece of individual skill of the game when Holt chased Hoolahan's pass down the right, out-muscled Dean Heffernan and slid in a low cross for Elliott to tap home.
The second was almost a repeat of Holt's own: Holt turned and helped on Rose's pass into the path of Simon Lappin, who picked Elliott out on the six-yard line. Same result.
An inspired substitution, which seems to be a neat little trick Lambert has up his sleeve.
It can be a master-stroke: Sir Alex Ferguson won the European Cup in 1999 after goals by subs Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It can be a curse: Graham Taylor lost a nation when he relieved Gary Lineker of his duties in his final England game.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't: Lambert's are working.
Cody McDonald at Walsall comes to mind, as does Oli Johnson's double helping that beat Southend last month.
Now there's Elliott, whose goals - from start to precise finish - were as clinical as Holt's.
City deserved the win, but yet again it was their willingness to chase adversity and haul themselves into the ascendancy that won them the points.
Had Huddersfield been as clinical as City they could have been further ahead at the break and had Forster not done brilliantly to force Lee Novak away from goal after Rose's poor back pass, City might have been pegged back to 2-2.
Ifs, buts and maybes. Lambert and Clark know that's not how football matches are won.
Which is probably why a scowl appears on Lambert's face when you ask him about the possibility of promotion or wining the title.
With a seven-point gap over Leeds and 12 to Charlton, half a dozen wins from their next 10 matches just about wraps up a return to the Championship.
They are calculations Lambert publicly won't admit to scribbling down on the bus journey home, but ones which everyone else is entitled to have a go at.
And if we get them right, then Lambert will be entitled to raise his hands in triumph at the end of 46 rounds of battle.