Lambert has last laugh as Agbonlahor’s late goal plunges Norwich City deep into relegation mire

Brad Guzan collects the ball safely ahead of Grant Holt. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Brad Guzan collects the ball safely ahead of Grant Holt. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

A goal by Aston Villa’s Gabby Agbonlahor in the last minute of normal time condemned Norwich City to a 2-1 defeat at Carrow Road on Saturday. That defeat plunges the Canaries into the relegation equation with only two games left to play.

The local press had again provided all home fans with clappers in a bid to increase the atmosphere inside the ground for this match which both sides needed to win to banish any lingering fears of relegation. Former Canary legends Dave Stringer and Robert Fleck were presented to the fans prior to kick off and both received warm applause from the Canary faithful. Johnson was presented with the Player of the Month award for April.

City lined up with three changes from the side that lost at Stoke last week. Back into the starting line-up came Garrido, Hoolahan (sporting a new and very short haircut), and Pilkington, at the expense of Whittaker, Tettey and Kamara.

The Canaries started brightly and soon won two corners. They might have had a penalty after 12 minutes when Lowton appeared to handle Pilkington's cross but the referee took no action. Lowton went off injured after 20 minutes, and Villa's Bennett (Joe of that ilk) was very lucky to remain on the pitch after a series of rugby tackles on Hoolahan, Holt, and Snodgrass. Holt went close with two headers, and at the other end Agbonlahor's shot was deflected by Garrido onto the crossbar. No score, but the Canaries could be well pleased with their performance as they went in at half-time.

Benteke twice went close at the beginning of the second half, but Villa finally took the lead after 55 minutes. Agbonlahor won the ball, ran away from Pilkington, and shot home. Johnson was booked, and Hoolahan headed wide. Weimann might have doubled Villa's lead, and Benteke was booked for grabbing Bassong.

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After 72 minutes, Kamara replaced Hoolahan - a decision which did not go down well with the home crowd who booed and began a desultory chant of "You don't know what you are doing". Villa's Bennett presumably did know what he was doing when he pulled down Snodgrass again in the area and City were awarded only their second penalty of the season. As the crowd wondered why Bennett had not been penalised with a second yellow card, Holt scored from the spot – his sixth goal of the season.

Snodgrass collapsed on the turf, presumably from exhaustion, and on came Elliott Bennett in his place. Only one minute remained when that man Agbonlahor accelerated away from Holt, past the challenging Bassong, and beat Bunn after exchanging passes with Westwood. On came Jackson in place of Garrido. Holt's header went close after Kamara's pass, and Ryan Bennett was booked for dissent.

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Villa's fans celebrated their second Great Escape in two years at the final whistle and the Canaries and their fans sank into abject misery. To coin a phrase “We woz gobsmacked”... or at least I was.

I was even too gobsmacked to have a beer in the Gunn Club after the game. Man of the match Ryan Bennett made all the right noises about continuing the fight to the end. The train journey back to London seemed to take ages. The Villa fan next to me kept insisting Norwich wouldn't go down. I hope he is right. But it no longer depends on us. We have to hope our relegation rivals drop points. At least there will be a full house for next week's home game against the Baggies. Perhaps this time EDP will provide double clappers, vuvuzelas, and a lap of honour by Bill Punton to inspire the crowd?


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