Clocks go back thanks to Martin
David Cuffley Norwich City 1, Swindon Town 0: The clocks went back in more ways than one on the day Chris Martin maintained Norwich City's climb up the League One table.
Norwich City 1, Swindon Town 0
The clocks went back in more ways than one on the day Chris Martin maintained Norwich City's climb up the League One table.
It may not have been the kind of entertainment enjoyed in the previous two games at Carrow Road, but those Canary supporters with long memories will not turn their noses up at a 1-0 home victory over Swindon Town by a team that can now, one hopes, be classed as genuine contenders to move up a division at the end of the season.
A winning goal against the Robins at the Barclay end, and before half-time, may just prompt vague recollections of a certain Duncan Forbes producing something similar in a key promotion game.
There is, of course, a very long way to go before damp and miserable October afternoons make way for the kind of bright April sunshine that provided the backdrop for Forbes' famous goal the small matter of 37 years ago, but if Paul Lambert's present day Canaries maintain their current rate of progress there is every reason to feel they will be, as the manager puts it, “in the mix” when spring has sprung.
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One of the encouraging features of City's rise to fifth place in the table under their new boss has been the way they have coped with the disruption caused by injuries to senior players.
They did so again on Saturday when the absence of Jon Otsemobor and Stephen Hughes thrust the responsibility once more on two teenagers, George Francomb making his home debut at right-back and Korey Smith celebrating the award of a new contract with a recall in midfield. The two youngsters combined well in right-sided raids in a first half the Canaries generally dominated - without really giving Swindon goalkeeper David Lucas enough to do.
It was unfortunate for Francomb and for City that his big day was cut short at half-time by a thigh injury, for Smith's influence was also reduced by him having to switch to full-back.
Even so, while it would have taken an imaginative TV editor to find any “highlights” to screen from the second half, there was never any real danger that Danny Wilson's team would pose enough of a threat after the break to escape with a point.
The visiting manager's pre-match comments, which he claimed were taken out of context, appeared to question the hosts' ability to hold their nerve in the months ahead. But it will take a better team than Swindon to rattle this City side, who showed no lack of determination to hang on to their lead, none more so than in the performances of centre-half pairing Gary Doherty and Jens Berthel Askou. A case, perhaps, of who do you think you are kidding, Mr Wilson?
It took a while for the contest to spark into life and, after Wes Hoolahan fired wide from outside the area in the seventh minute, most of City's opportunities came though Simon Lappin's dead-ball kicks.
First Grant Holt got his head to Lappin's corner but put his effort wide of the target, then a Lappin free-kick provided the next chance for Askou, who climbed well but headed over the top. With 20 minutes gone, Swindon threatened for the first time when Alex Revell sent a glancing header just wide from Anthony McNamee's cross with the home defence a little flat-footed.
There was a lucky escape, however, for Swindon in the 22nd minute when Hoolahan and Martin combined to set up Holt, whose shot from the edge of the area struck the crossbar before rebounding to safety.
The only goal came just after the half-hour when Darel Russell let fly from outside the area and his shot ricocheted for a corner off Kevin Amankwaah. Holt's header from Lappin's flag-kick appeared to be goalbound before Hoolahan tried to flick it past Lucas, who parried his effort, but Doherty managed to direct the loose ball into Martin's path and he poked home from a tight angle for his fifth goal of the season.
Smith came close to making it 2-0 three minutes before the break when his long-range effort, from a pass by Francomb, just cleared the bar.
Swindon missed their best chance of an equaliser in first-half stoppage time when Tope Obadeyi got away from Francomb but his low cross was fired wide by McNamee with the goal at his mercy.
City occasionally threatened after the break when Holt headed just off target from a Lappin corner and Askou was wide with a header from Russell's free-kick.
With eight minutes to go, Hoolahan, more subdued than usual, tried an audacious shot from a free-kick on the halfway line with Lucas out of his goal, but the idea was better than the execution and the ball drifted wide.
Defender Michael Nelson made his first appearance for City for nearly six weeks when he replaced Smith in the final minute.
But the final half-chance fell to Swindon when substitute Lee Peacock hooked his shot wide in stoppage time.