Grounds rides to the rescue for City
David Cuffley Defender Jonathan Grounds admitted to a sense of shock after his first goal in senior football earned Norwich City a precious point last night - and gave him an early 21st birthday present.
Defender Jonathan Grounds admitted to a sense of shock after his first goal in senior football earned Norwich City a precious point last night - and gave him an early 21st birthday present.
The centre-half, on loan from Middlesbrough, scored a second-half equaliser as the Canaries drew 1-1 on their first visit to Doncaster Rovers for 50 seasons.
Grounds headed home from winger Lee Croft's centre after 61 minutes at the Keepmoat Stadium, replying to Paul Heffernan's goal for the Yorkshire side midway though the first half.
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The result maintained Bryan Gunn's unbeaten start as City manager, kept his team above Rovers in the Championship table on goal difference, and sent nearly 1,800 travelling fans home relatively happy on a bitterly cold night.
Grounds, who will be 21 on Monday, will not forget his first career goal.
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He said: “A lot of people ran in towards the front post. I just kind of held my ground and it came straight to me and I just managed to head it straight in the corner.
“It hung in the air a little bit. I just placed it right in the corner. I was a little bit shocked and just grabbed the man nearest to me.”
City would have slipped below Rovers had they lost, and it took an outstanding save from 'keeper David Marshall to stop James Coppinger restoring the home side's lead nine minutes after Grounds struck.
“We were under the cosh a little bit,” said Grounds. “We gave away a bad goal in the first half and we needed to get something from this game so a point was the minimum. We could have done with all three but a point was good enough.
“It was a good battling performance. In the second half we really had to dig in after we scored ourselves to hold on to the draw.
“The pitch didn't really help. It developed into that kind of game where it was long balls and we couldn't play much through the midfield, but we managed to hang on for a point.
“We knew we had opportunities in the first half. We started very well and conceded a very sloppy goal, but we knew if we kept working at it we'd eventually score.
“It's brilliant for the fans to drive three hours on a Friday night. It's not like it's a Saturday and they've got days off. But they were brilliant when we scored.”
City visit morning leaders Wolves on Tuesday, the first of seven remaining matches in Grounds' second loan period with City, which runs until March 7.
“Recovery is an important factor now to get our legs back to go again on Tuesday, which will be a battle,” he said. “We got a good result against them at home when I wasn't here so I hope we can go there and get something.
“We're going to have to go there and put another very good performance in.”
He admitted that five points from three games under new boss Gunn was satisfactory, but would have preferred seven after City let a 2-0 lead slip at home to Southampton.
“I think we'd have been looking to get another win from the game on Tuesday, which we let slip, but five's good enough,” said Grounds.
“It's very good. We're undefeated. We want to keep that run going. If we can stay that way we'll start to push up the table.”
Grounds' goal came after striker Jamie Cureton had been denied the equaliser by Doncaster 'keeper Neil Sullivan in the opening seconds of the second half.
Said Gunn: “Jamie's disappointed. Jamie's the type of player who'll go in on the end of those. We made that chance, got that into a great area. Neil Sullivan, give him credit as well, closed Jamie down very quickly.
“But the lads kept battling, didn't let their heads go down and I was delighted when Jonathans Grounds got on the end of a cross and finished it.
“I thought at that stage we looked like we were going to be very strong and go forward and win the game, but Doncaster are a good footballing side and they continued to play and they continued to make chances. Some resolute defending and some great goalkeeping from David Marshall have seen us through for the point.
“I thought it was a great performance by the lads. They stuck by what we asked them to do.
“I was disappointed with the goal we lost - it was a long, hopeful ball into our penalty area and our defence had been defending well before that, so it was a lack of ownership to go and attack the ball. But the lads knew we were disappointed with that and we went out in the second half and put it right.”
Doncaster boss Sean O'Driscoll felt the playing surface hindered his side's passing game.
He said: “It's a pitch more suited to growing potatoes than playing football. We like to pass the ball around, we are not a team that goes route one. But we will just have to get a bit more savvy.”