Marshall saves the day
DAVID CUFFLEY Goalkeeper David Marshall last night became Norwich City's penalty hero for the second time this season but then confessed: "I owed that save to the boys.
Goalkeeper David Marshall last night became Norwich City's penalty hero for the second time this season but then confessed: "I owed that save to the boys."
The Scotland international's save from a spot-kick by Blackpool's Wes Hoolahan came at a crucial stage in the Canaries' 3-1 victory at Bloomfield Road - their first Coca-Cola Championship away win since April.
City remain bottom of the table despite their second victory under new boss Glenn Roeder in the space of four days, but after ending a run of seven straight league defeats on their travels this season - thanks to two goals from veteran Dion Dublin and one from on-loan defender Martin Taylor - they can now look ahead to Saturday's trip to Stoke with genuine hope of making it a hat-trick of wins.
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They were leading 2-1 with 10 minutes left when referee Mark Haywood pointed to the spot for what appeared to be a perfectly sound challenge by full-back Jon Otsemobor on Blackpool substitute Andy Welsh.
Marshall's heroics from 12 yards clinched a Carling Cup win on penalties for City at Rochdale back in August, though he was out of luck when he was beaten from the spot twice at Charlton and once at Queen's Park Rangers in subsequent league defeats. But there was much more at stake last night than at Rochdale as the 22-year-old 'keeper not only dived to his left to keep out Hoolahan's kick, but saved the winger's follow-up effort before skipper Jason Shackell cleared in the almighty goalmouth scramble that followed.
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A goal in stoppage time from Dublin wrapped up the three points but Marshall said he felt his save had atoned for failing to keep out Blackpool's only goal, an equaliser eight minutes before half-time when Gary Taylor-Fletcher's shot took at least one deflection - off Polish striker Bartosz Slusarski - on its way in.
Said Marshall: "I was disappointed. It took a wee deflection but I should have saved it, so I feel as if I owed the penalty save to the boys after that.
"There was the penalty shoot-out at Rochdale, but at Charlton I was disappointed not to save. It was a good time tonight as well, an important save, so I'm just glad the boys and Dion gave us a bit of respite then with a great finish.
"To get two wins in a row in this league is difficult, especially coming to a place like this. It's a tight ground and the fans are right on top of you.
"We're just a point behind Blackpool and I hope we can carry on at Stoke and in the two home games after that.
"I thought we looked fresh tonight. When we went ahead, and even 10 minutes before that, we looked pretty comfortable so we were disappointed at half-time.
"We knew Blackpool were going to press us in the first 15 minutes of the second half, so we were disappointed to have conceded a sloppy goal but we rode the storm and big Martin Taylor's goal changed the game as well."
Taylor, who had restored City's lead seven minutes before the penalty, and skipper Jason Shackell earned special praise from Marshall for their solid central defensive partnership.
"I think they've been excellent. Without them we would have struggled. They won everything early and I thought the two of them were great, especially Tayls, who I thought was probably our man of the match tonight," said Marshall.
Roeder admitted Marshall's save had been a crucial moment in his second win as City boss but insisted: "The fact of the matter is he shouldn't be having to make a penalty save. I looked at it on the video straightaway when I got back into the dressing room and it was impossible for it to be a penalty. It was a fantastic challenge by Jon.
"He quickens up, it's a block tackle and the problem is, in my opinion, that he's probably three times bigger than the lad he tackled. And, of course, his sheer force of winning the ball and then carrying through, which he is entitled to do in a block tackle challenge, has left the lad in a heap.
"The referee didn't agree with me but I did happen to mention that it happened down the home crowd's end and everyone in the stand jumped up and roared that they thought it was a penalty. Sometimes you need referees to be braver."