Boruc saves Southampton at the death against Norwich City

Wes Hoolahan points out that Grant Holt was fouled inside the area. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus

Wes Hoolahan points out that Grant Holt was fouled inside the area. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Southampton’s goalkeeper Artur Boruc saved a stoppage time penalty from Grant Holt on Saturday, thereby ensuring that Norwich City and Southampton each took a point from this game.

Both sides lamented that they should have had three points, but both will be secretly pleased to have come away with one point, and perhaps more importantly denied a relegation rival the full three points for a win.

Norwich made one change from the team beaten at Old Trafford last week; Kamara started at the expense of Hoolahan, who sat on the bench. A tingle of anticipation went through the crowd when the team was announced, and the fans relished the chance to see the Canaries start positively with two wide men and two strikers in a game they needed to win to distance themselves from the relegation pack.

The conditions were atrocious as the game started with a mixture of snow, sleet and rain falling on an already sodden pitch. Holt was booked after 15 minutes. The Saints had the better of the first half and Bunn made two good saves from the dangerous Lallana, as well as saving from Ramirez and Shaw. At the other City went close with free kicks from Snodgrass and Garrido.

There was a blow for the Canaries after 35 minutes when Pilkington had to leave the field clutching at his hamstring, following an earlier challenge which left him hobbling uncomfortably and has subsequently seen him withdraw from the Republic of Ireland squad where he was hoping to win his first international cap. Hoolahan replaced him on the pitch, and played on the left wing, which is not his best position.

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One minute before half-time Holt just failed to connect with a cross from Snodgrass. Holt’s shirt was clearly pulled in the six yard box but referee Clattenburg waved away City’s claims for a penalty.

Southampton’s lively display belied their lowly position in the league, and they had been surprisingly ambitious and positive in their approach in the first half. Both sides had chances in the beginning of the second period. Lallana shot over the bar. Bunn parried a fierce shot from Ramirez and Lambert‘s attempt to score from the rebound flew over the bar. Holt and Kamara went close. City’s best chance came after 75 minutes, when Snodgrass seemed to be clean through, but lost the ball as he tried to go round the goalkeeper. Becchio replaced the tiring Kamara. Johnson was booked.

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But the real drama came at the very end of the game, in stoppage time. As Shaw and Holt challenged for the ball on the edge of the area Holt went down under the full back’s challenge. Holt claimed a penalty. Hoolahan obligingly pointed out the skidmarks to prove to the ref that the clash had indeed happened inside the penalty area. Referee Clattenburg pointed to the spot. He was surrounded by a seething mass of incandescent Saints protesting at his decision and jostling him like a conclave of squabbling cardinals. St Puncheon was booked for protesting too much. The ref consulted his linesman, who did not demur. The award of the penalty stood. It was the first awarded to Norwich City this season. City fans remembered how in the previous home game the Canaries had won the game in stoppage time. They held their breath as Holt struck the penalty firmly to his left and goalkeeper Boruc guessed correctly, dived to his right, and made an excellent save. The Canary fans were devastated to see defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

At the final whistle the Saints again went marching in to surround the referee and their manager too strode onto the pitch to confront the officials. Fortunately his interpreter was there to translate, and was later able to translate an apology too, which may save the Argentine from a possible fine and ban. It remains to be seen whether they will also be charged with failing to control their players.

A draw was probably a fair result. Both sides had chances, and the conditions were terrible. For the statistically minded, this was City’s ninth clean sheet in the League this season (compared with three in 2011-12). But the Canaries have now won only one of their last 12 League games, and have scored only seven goals in this run. Yes we are less likely to concede, but even less likely to score. Rumblings of discontent are beginning to be heard. Let us hope for some more luck, and more importantly more points, in the forthcoming away games at Sunderland and Wigan. That will be the best antidote to the doubts and the doubters. We are still nine points clear of the club currently occupying the final relegation position. That is the statistic that matters most.

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