Norwich City 1, Charlton Athletic 0
Jonathan Redhead Leroy Lita's seventh goal of the season handed Norwich City all crucial three points at Carrow Road this afternoon. The on loan striker finished superbly from 12-yards in the 59th minute to hand Glenn Roeder's side an early Christmas present in the shape of maximum points against the side that look certainties for relegation on this showing.
Leroy Lita's seventh goal of the season handed Norwich City all crucial three points at Carrow Road this afternoon.
The on loan striker finished superbly from 12-yards in the 59th minute to hand Glenn Roeder's side an early Christmas present in the shape of maximum points against the side that look certainties for relegation on this showing.
It was not vintage stuff from City but they deserved victory after a much improved second half showing to begin the hectic festive period in the best possible way.
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Norwich City boss Glenn Roeder picked arguably his strongest side for this afternoon's game.
Leroy Lita and Wes Hoolahan returned to the starting line up at the expense of Darel Russell and Mark Fotheringham, while Elliot Omozusi replaced the injured John Kennedy. There was also a late change with Adam Drury coming in for Ryan Bertrand who injured his foot in the warm up.
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Charlton caretaker boss Phil Parkinson kept the same side that drew 2-2 with Derby County on Monday as the Addicks searched for their first win in 13 league matches.
Charlton kicked off towards the River End under leaden skies and made a decent start with City keeper David Marshall being forced to come off his line to collect a Hameur Bouazza cross.
City strung their first decent attack together in the fourth minute with Lita laying the ball off to Croft. His run and long range shot went out off a defender for City's first corner of the game. From David Bell's flag kick Jon Otsemobor got his head to the ball and his effort was cleared off the line although it looked to be heading wide.
However City kept up the pressure as Charlton struggled to clear their box and a foul on Croft brought the home side a free-kick but Bell's cross curled out of play for a goal kick.
City had started with a high tempo and from Hoolahan's pass Matty Pattison tried his luck from 25-yards in the sixth minute but Rob Elliot in the Charlton goal saved comfortably.
At the other end, Charlton's on loan striker Martin Waghorn earned his side's first corner on eight minutes after battling with Sammy Clingan. The flag kick was repelled but only at the cost of another corner, however, this time Marshall was able to punch Lloyd Sam's kick to safety.
City had a major scare in the 15th minute after good play down the Addicks left gave Grant Basey the chance to cross and his low ball narrowly eluded the outstretched boot of Andy Gray who was six-yards out.
Bouazza was next to try his luck for the visitors two minutes later but he scuffed his shot well wide from the edge of the area. City then forced another corner when Lita's cross was cleared by Mark Hudson. From Bell's left wing kick Basey missed his clearance but Lita could only fire high and wide when the ball dropped onto his left foot some 15-yards out.
The striker had the chance to make amends a minute later when Bell's excellent cross was right into his path but he could only steer his volley wide, however, it wouldn't have counted anyway as the flag had gone up for offside.
Out of nowhere Charlton almost took the lead from an unlikely source in the 24th minute. After a free-kick for the visitors was only half cleared, Hudson fired in a fine volley from the edge of the City box. It was headed for the top corner but Marshall flung himself to his right hand side to tip the ball over the bar in one of the best saves seen at the ground this season. He then came out to comfortably collect the ball from the resulting corner.
The chance seemed to lift the Charlton players as the game became very scrappy with Norwich guilty of giving the ball away far too easily.
They nearly paid the price in the 32nd minute as Gary Doherty's header dropped to Jose Semedo and the Charlton midfielder curled his right foot shot inches over the angle of post and crossbar from the edge of the box.
The home crowd were becoming restless and their frustration increased with a series of correct offside decisions, particularly against Lita. By now Roeder had come down from his seat in the stands to prowl the touchline as the game became extremely scrappy.
His presence seemed to have an effect as in the 37th minute City strung together a fine passing move which was only ended when Hoolahan over hit his pass to Drury when a shot was the better option.
In the 44th minute City had a chance to take an undeserved half-time lead when they won a soft corner. But the Charlton defence were up to the task and managed to clear Bell's flag kick.
In two minutes of added on time, City were presented with an opportunity as Hudson hand balled 25-yards out. Clingan struck the free-kick over the five-man wall but the ball curled a couple of feet wide of the right hand post with keeper Elliot at full stretch.
It was the final act of a disappointing first half.
t Half-time: Norwich City 0, Charlton Athletic 0
Charlton had the first shot of the second period as Sam cut in from the right and evaded Drury's challenge but he then pulled his left foot shot wide of Marshall's goal in the 48th minute.
From the goal kick Marshall played the ball short to Omozusi, and he drilled a long pass over the top of the Charlton defence into the path of Lita who went one-on-one with Elliot. The City man lobbed the ball over the keeper but it bounced just wide as half of the ground thought it would nestle into the net. It was City's best chance by some distance and it was one Lita really should have taken.
The crowd were willing City on and the home side had another brilliant chance to open the scoring on 55 minutes. Bell danced his way into the area down the left hand side, but his low cross was just behind Lita. Lita managed to tee-up Hoolahan, but the diminutive forward took too long to get his shot away and it was blocked at the expense of a corner.
Charlton keeper Elliot was the first man to be booked on 56 minutes when referee Haywood decided he was taking too long to take a free-kick and cautioned him for time wasting.
A breakaway from the visitors almost brought them a goal after 57 minutes as Bouazza advanced down the left and fired in a ferocious left foot volley but Marshall was equal to it and kept it out as his near post.
City finally got the breakthrough after 59 minutes with a fantastic goal from Lita. Clingan picked the ball up near to the halfway line and from the left hand side he drilled a pass to Lita in the Charlton box. The front man controlled the ball on his chest and as it dropped he swivelled and hit a left foot shot which went through the legs of Hudson and into the net from a dozen yards out with no chance for the keeper.
Two minutes later Lita thought he was in on goal again but the offside flag went up for the umpteenth time but Lita stupidly kicked the ball away and was booked by the referee.
With the visitors struggling to maintain possession over the halfway line, Parkinson made the first Charlton change on 63 minutes with Waghorn coming off and Deon Burton coming on to replace him. A minute later and it was that man Lita again causing problems to the Charlton defence as he went tumbling in the box but the referee waved away his appeals and gave a goal kick.
Despite his side's much improved second half showing, Roeder made the first City substitution with 65 minutes on the clock, the busy Hoolahan was replaced by Carl Court who was making his home debut. He went up front alongside Lita as the Canaries reverted to a 4-4-2 formation. It was Court who nearly got on the end of a Bell cross on 68 minutes but the winger's ball was inches too high.
Charlton were still looking lifeless in attack, although Burton was looking far livelier than anyone else in their team.
Hudson's slip after 75 minutes almost presented Lita with a chance to make the game safe but his shot was deflected high into the air and was cleared for a corner before Court could pounce. Bell's first corner kick was cleared, but from his second effort Lita headed the ball over the bar.
Charlton made their second substitution on 76 minutes has Semedo came off to be replaced by centre forward Svetoslav Todorov, as Charlton switched to a 4-3-3 formation in a bid to rescue a point.
After 79 minutes Croft and Otsemobor combined brilliantly down the right wing and the overlapping defender saw his low cross put behind for a corner which was comfortably cleared by the Addicks' defence.
City were pressing for a second goal to kill off the game but Charlton created a half chance through the willing Bouazza. He chased a long ball and fired in a left foot shot from a very tight angle which Marshall turned behind, although it looked as if the ball would have hit the side netting.
The visitors made their third and final change after 82 minutes with the experienced Keith Gillespie coming on for Sam. Two minutes later City made their second switch with Mark Fotheringham replacing Pattison in the centre of the City midfield.
It was still all Norwich and in the 86th minute Croft danced around Basey and delivered an excellent cross from the right hand side which Elliot gathered just ahead of the incoming Court. With three minutes remaining there was a booking for Burton, after he deliberately handled the ball as he chased a long punt from the Charlton defence.
There were howls of derision around the ground as the fourth official signalled four minutes of added time. But despite a couple of nervy moments and a couple of sliced clearances, the Canaries deservedly held on for all three points.
t Result: Norwich City 1, Charlton Athletic 0
t Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Doherty, Omozusi, Drury, Croft, Clingan, Pattison, Bell, Hoolahan, Lita.
Subs: Nelson, Fotheringham, Russell, Cort, Lupoli.
t Charlton: Elliot, Cranie, Hudson, Fortune, Basey, Sam, Bailey, Semedo, Bouazza, Gray, Waghorn.
Subs: Weaver, Youga, Todorov, Gillespie, Burton.
t Referee: Mark Haywood (W Yorkshire)
t MoM: Lita
t Attendance: 23,827