It’s a night for heroes and villains at Carrow Road
NORWICH CITY 4, LEICESTER CITY 3: Adam Drury made reference in a post-match interview to the fact that those at Carrow Road last night had witnessed a miracle.
After watching their side recover from a disastrous start to win a seven-goal thriller and move into the third place in the Championship, the Canary faithful may indeed be beginning to believe that just about anything - the odd miracle included - is possible with this team under the guidance of this manager.
The fact is, but for two important saves from Leicester City goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, full-back Drury might have doubled his City career tally with the most unlikely hat-trick in club colours since full-back Mel Machin fired a matchwinning treble at Nottingham Forest 35 years ago. That truly would have been miraculous.
But it was a match that needed no such comic strip heroics from the Canaries’ longest-serving player to bring their crowd of the season to the edge of their seats - there were already more than enough heroes and villains taking centre stage.
Leicester went into the match on the back of a six-goal hammering at Portsmouth and while their defensive frailties were on show once again, they were also one of the brightest attacking sides to visit these parts for some time.
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There was a disastrous start for the hosts as Leicester went straight on the offensive and Martyn Waghorn gave them the lead after 78 seconds, inadvertently assisted by City goalkeeper John Ruddy.
Waghorn cut inside from the right and went past Simon Lappin and Drury before firing in a left-foot shot that Ruddy somehow managed to divert into his own net, the ball appearing to strike his leg and roll inside the near post.
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It was a nervous start from City and Ruddy had to gather a miskick from defender Elliott Ward before pouching a Waghorn free-kick.
Drury produced the Canaries’ first threat when he moved on to Wes Hoolahan’s pass and struck a powerful left-foot shot that Ikeme turned over the top, not entirely convincingly.
Ikeme was busier as City began to get a foothold in the game, plucking a goalbound lob from Ward out of the air and clinging on to a header from Simeon Jackson - preferred to Chris Martin - following Ward’s cross.
But the goal City had been threatening came in the 31st minute when Andrew Crofts scored his third of the season. Hoolahan crossed from the left and Jackson’s glancing header flew across goal but skipper Grant Holt retrieved and turned the ball back for Crofts to score with a first-time shot.
If the first half had been fairly eventful, the action moved up another gear in a frenetic second period, which produced five goals in the space of 25 minutes.
Hoolahan - cool and creative amid the chaos and the dominant influence during the 90 minutes - and Lappin had already threat-ened with long-range efforts when City moved ahead eight minutes into the second half, Hoolahan scoring his first goal since March, from the penalty spot. Korey Smith burst forward and Russell Martin’s cross from the right was blocked by the raised arm of Andy King. Referee Peter Walton pointed straight to the spot and Hoolahan coolly tucked the penalty to Ikeme’s left.
It was all hands to the pump now as the Canaries tried to extend their lead, Holt heading just wide from Hoolahan’s cross and Jackson having a powerful left-foot shot beaten away by Ikeme.
Lappin fired into the side netting after more good work by Smith but it was Drury who finally struck in the 62nd minute, producing a delightful finish from Hoolahan’s through-ball for his first goal since the 4-4 draw against Middlesbrough in the Premiership in January 2005.
If that seemed like the killer goal, Leicester substitute Matt Fryatt had other ideas and scored within two minutes, seconds of replacing Matt Oakley.
Ruddy turned a Waghorn header round the post for a corner and the resulting flag-kick produced a game of pinball in the City area. King slipped a pass through to Fryatt, whose first effort was blocked on the line by Russell Martin, but Fryatt knocked in the rebound.
There was a flurry of yellow cards as City were for once on the receiving end, and Chris Martin replaced Jackson before they restored their two-goal advantage with just over 15 minutes left with a brilliant goal by Hoolahan.
Holt teed the ball up for Hoolahan and after cushioning it on his left thigh, he struck a stunning half-volley past Ikeme from 25 yards.
There was still time for more drama three minutes later when Fryatt scored his second goal but was almost immediately shown the red card. The substitute burst clear on the left, eluded Ward’s tackle and coolly tucked a left-foot shot under Ruddy, but in trying to get the ball back out of the net, the substitute appeared to strike City defender Barnett, and referee Walton produced the red card.
Hoolahan was, perhaps surprisingly, withdrawn but there was the welcome sight defender Steven Smith making his debut for the final 10 minutes. Smith almost set up goal number five when he teed up Drury for a low drive that Ikeme was grateful to hold on to. One miracle, in Drury’s words, was perhaps enough for one night.