It’s a Holt of lightning for jubilant Norwich City
We thought we’d seen it all in City’s previous home game against Millwall, 11 days earlier, when Henri Lansbury secured all three points with what was effectively the last kick of the game.
Well, just to prove that lightning can indeed strike twice, it was Grant Holt who proved to be the matchwinner on Saturday with yet another remarkable last-gasp goal.
It was uncanny for successive home games to be won in such dramatic fashion. But it was just as spine-tinglingly exhilarating the second time around as the first.
Saturday’s victory was thoroughly deserved, it has to be said. After a few weeks of not quite managing to hit the impressive standards they have reached this season, City undoubtedly cranked up the tempo and the quality of their game in the second half at Burnley the previous week week. And they continued where they left off at Turf Moor and looked very much back to their usual confident, attacking best on Saturday.
City enjoyed plenty of possession, but as on so many occasions at Carrow Road this season, with the visitors trying to make it difficult by getting 10 men behind the ball as often as possible, they had to be very patient and wait for the ideal opportunity to try to pick a killer pass.
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In fact, Norwich were looking so comfortable with the ball early on that Reading boss Brian McDermott felt it necessary to adjust his team from an adventurous 4-2-3-1 formation to a more conservative 4-3-3 set-up with barely 15 minutes gone.
He moved Jay Tabb from a shadow-striking role to a position in front of his back four, primarily to try to deny Wes Hoolahan the time and space he was revelling in at the tip of Norwich’s diamond midfield.
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Ironically, though, barely a couple of minutes later Hoolahan proved that he can be just as menacing when he is faced with a man-marker as he is when the opposition pays no special attention to him. He cleverly nutmegged Tabb on the byline and put the ball on a plate for Lansbury to score City’s opening goal, and at that moment they looked to be well on course for a comfortable victory.
Credit must go to Reading, however. Far from crumbling and accepting their fate, they caused City more than one or two problems, never more so than when they moved forward quickly on the counter-attack and were able to work the ball out wide to the dangerous and very direct Jimmy Kebe.
The visitors equalised through the ever-alert Shane Long, but the game continued along the same lines, with Norwich dominating possession and creating chances at regular intervals, and Reading sitting back and waiting for an opportunity to spring forward.
It seemed for all the world that City might ultimately rue not converting any one or more of the goalscoring chances they carved out for themselves, particularly the three one-versus-one situations they created.
And Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici’s excellent agility seemed set to break City’s hearts and deny them their two extra precious points.
But perhaps we should have known better?
• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – WES HOOLAHAN: David Fox had a terrific game in the middle of the park. He was strong in the tackle and his passing was generally spot-on. But once again the diminutive Irishman was the best attacking player on the pitch. Whenever Hoolahan had the ball at his feet, you always felt he was likely to make something happen. He possesses such a change of pace and direction that he can make his opponents appear as though they’re playing with lead weights attached to their boots, and his regular mazy runs and dribbles in or around the penalty area must have given the Reading defenders nightmares.