Canaries still on track for the gold
David Cuffley Brighton 1, Norwich City 2: The Man with No Name was renowned for getting himself and others out of a tight spot, for his mean and moody look, his deadly shooting and his aversion to shaving.
Brighton 1, Norwich City 2
The Man with No Name was renowned for getting himself and others out of a tight spot, for his mean and moody look, his deadly shooting and his aversion to shaving.
Just as things were looking a bit grim, the mysterious stranger would appear out of the dust, take aim, pull the trigger and shoot down his opponents, leaving who else but the Doc to inspect the casualties and apply the last rites.
Could the Man with No Number be a distant relative?
It was he who played a starring role in just such a late rescue act for Norwich City - though others in these parts may know him better as A Man Called Horse.
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The name Grant Holt even sounds a bit like a Western star.
That name had disappeared from his back, however, by the time he took a leading part in the drama unfolding at the Withdean Stadium.
Bleeding from a bang in the mouth and forced to change his shirt by referee Dean Whitestone, he returned, anonymously, to apply the killer blow to lowly Brighton's hopes of a third home victory of the season at their long-time temporary home, an athletics arena that is picturesque enough, and probably perfect for a June afternoon, but not ideally suited to staging football at this level.
There was a nice touch from the hosts in tying yellow and green balloons to the temporary stand that housed nearly 900 Canary fans but such was the muted atmosphere - and so far from the pitch were the travelling supporters - that the teams emerged to little more than a polite ripple of applause.
It was League One leaders City, however, who had the first real opportunity to pump up the volume. It came in the 14th minute when Simon Lappin won a midfield challenge on Inigo Calderon and sent Chris Martin clear on the left but, in a one-on-one with Michael Kuipers, the striker shot too close to the 'keeper and his effort was blocked.
Two minutes later, City had the ball in the net through Wes Hoolahan, who started a neat move involving Chris Martin and Holt and was there to tap home from close range, but was adjudged offside.
Holt then missed a golden opening when he put a free header wide from an excellent cross by left-back Michael Rose.
The Canaries paid for their five minutes of profligacy when Brighton took the lead.
A foul by Russell gave them a free-kick on the left edge of the penalty area and although Elliott Bennett's dead-ball kick lacked any great power, it crept through the crowd of players in the area and bobbled its way inside Forster's left-hand post.
On the half-hour there was almost an equaliser when Tommy Elphick almost headed Chris Martin's cross into his own net, but there was an even greater escape for City two minutes later. Chris Holroyd reached the byline and crossed to Glenn Murray, who looked certain to make it 2-0, but defender Michael Nelson pulled off a marvellous goalline clearance.
Early in the second half, Holt suffered a bang in the mouth and left the field to change his bloodstained shirt, returning with the shirt with no number.
Hoolahan flashed a header wide from Russell Martin's cross and Chris Martin almost levelled when Gary Doherty nodded a Russell free-kick into his path but his close-range effort struck the foot of the post.
City were grateful for more goalline heroics with 15 minutes to go when, from Bennett's corner, Lappin hooked a powerful header from Murray off the line with goalkeeper Fraser Forster beaten.
The importance of that rescue act was underlined when Holt equalised with 10 minutes left with his 24th goal of the season.
Chris Martin found Hoolahan on the left and worked his way into the Brighton area before crossing low into the six-yard box where substitute Oli Johnson was unable to finish but Holt fired his shot into the roof of the net.
Four minutes later, City turned round the game completely when Doherty rose at the far post to score with a downward header from Russell's free-kick, his seventh goal of the season.
As results filtered through from elsewhere, it proved to be a very good afternoon for the Canaries, who extended their lead at the top to four points, with Millwall the only other side in the top eight to register a victory, though TV regulars Charlton play their game in hand on City at Bristol Rovers tonight.
In the same stadium where former Olympic champion Steve Ovett first made his mark in track athletics, City had taken another big step towards the gold.