Norwich City 1, WBA 2
David Cuffley Norwich City’s Championship future was still uncertain after they slipped to defeat in a pulsating encounter with leaders West Bromwich Albion at Carrow Road.
Norwich City's Championship future was still uncertain after they slipped to defeat in a pulsating encounter with leaders West Bromwich Albion at Carrow Road.
Albion took the lead in the second minute when Robert Koren scored from close range, although it appeared goalkeeper David Marshall may have been fouled by Roman Bednar as the ball slipped from his hands.
Darren Huckerby and Jamie Cureton both missed chances to equalise and Albion's Zoltan Gera stuck the crossbar before Gera stretched the visitors' lead with a volley after 70 minutes when he latched onto a clearance from Jason Shackell.
You may also want to watch:
City got a goal back three minutes later when Ched Evans scored from the penalty spot after Leon Barnett had handled.
City gave as good as they got in a full blooded encounter, not helped by some bizarre refereeing decisions by Iain Williamson.
- 1 Transfer rumour: Canaries interested in Celtic defender
- 2 Paddy Davitt: Player ratings after Canaries' 1-0 Watford defeat
- 3 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 1-0 defeat against Watford
- 4 QPR forced to deny manager is leaving ahead of City clash
- 5 Farke laments 'average' City display in Watford defeat
- 6 David Freezer: Emotions bubbling for City as Watford tee up a proper title race
- 7 Hanley insists winning title 'means everything' to Canaries
- 8 City ace Krul reflects on Premier League interest
- 9 Watford wanted to stop promoted City enjoying 'showcase game'
- 10 'Blown away' - Gibson reveals how City wooed him for Premier League push
But the result keeps the nerves jangling as they head into the final two games of the season, with some of their rivals at the bottom recording victories.
City boss Glenn Roeder decided to ring the changes after the 2-1 derby defeat at Ipswich.
Skipper Mark Fotheringham returned after recovering from a neck injury, while there were recalls for defender Jason Shackell and midfielder Kieran Gibbs. Relegated to the bench were defender Alex Pearce and, in a surprise move, both Dion Dublin and midfielder Darel Russell. At left back, Mo Camara was in the starting line up for the first time in six matches in place of Ryan Bertrand, ruled out by a hamstring injury. Winger Luke Chadwick, out of action since November after a shoulder operation, and Spanish defender Juan Velasco were the other two substitutes as Roeder again dispensed with a second goalkeeper. There was no place in the 16 for winger Lee Croft.
West Bromwich Albion boss Tony Mowbray made one change to the side who beat Wolves in midweek, with Roman Bednar replacing Ishmael Miller up front. Mowbray did include a substitute keeper, however, in Michal Danek and he welcomed back Martin Albrechtsen, named among the substitutes after injury.
West Bromwich kicked off defending the Barclay goal and, with little more than a minute played, they took the lead through Koren. Phillips managed to get away from Doherty and his low shot was parried by Marshall. The keeper grabbed the ball at the second attempt but as Bednar landed on Marshall, the ball slipped from his grasp and Koren tucked it inside the post.
With four minutes gone a determined run by Gera took him deep into the Norwich area and he looked certain to make it 2-0, but Marshall managed to palm the ball out for a corner.
Huckerby attempted a one-two with Cureton as Norwich pushed forward for the first time, but the move broke down and Albion were soon back on the attack, Marshall claiming an in-swinging corner from Clement under pressure.
Huckerby almost caught out Albion keeper Kiely with a dangerous cross which he just managed to palm over the bar. As Huckerby's corner came in, it was clear a West Brom defender headed it out and City were amazed to find a goal kick awarded.
City were playing with Gibbs in a wide left role and Huckerby on the right, but Gibbs spoiled one attacking opportunity when he left his pass too short for Camara and Albion were able to break forward again.
With 12 minutes gone, many in the home crowd thought City had equalised when Huckerby put the ball in the net with a cool finish from Fotheringham's pass, but the flag was already up for offside.
With a quarter of an hour gone, the Canaries were getting into the game a little more and Gibbs headed over the top from a cross from the right by Huckerby.
Fotheringham brought Huckerby into the play again after 18 minutes with a pass to the right corner flag, but Huckerby's cross to the near post was a poor one and Kiely easily gathered it.
Fotheringham earned a ticking off from referee Williamson a minute later for bringing down Greening with a rather rash tackle, but the City skipper escaped a yellow card.
A foul by Robinson on Huckerby gave the Canaries a free-kick midway into the Albion half, but Fotheringham's kick was headed away. Camara picked up the loose ball and found Cureton, who had two shots blocked as he tried to find a way past Kiely.
Koren, the goal scorer, needed attention to his left shoulder after Fotheringham landed on him as they went for a header, but the Albion man was soon back on the field.
Shackell pounced on an error by Bednar and floated a dangerous ball in the direction of Cureton, but Barnett just got there first to head the ball back to Kiely.
After 25 minutes, some neat approach play by Fotheringham, Huckerby and Evans was rather spoiled when an ambitious left-foot shot by Pattison flew well over the top.
Pattison was involved again and, after playing a one-two with Evans, he managed to get a long range shot on target but it lacked the power to trouble Kiely.
Albion threatened again on the half hour when Phillips played a one-two with Bednar but the flag was up for offside as Phillips stumbled over the return pass.
There was a brief altercation between Evans and Hoefkens after the City striker was penalised for a push on the Albion man, but the referee stepped in to calm things down. The official then had a word with Camara, who protested that Gera had dived when he too was penalised for a foul.
The visitors won another corner when a shot by Gera deflected off Doherty and Marshall was unable to keep the ball in play. Clement took the kick but Gibbs was there at the near post to get the ball away.
Eight minutes before the break, Marshall was forced into action again, turning away a shot from Bednar after Koren had found the striker in space.
City were still pushing forward when they could but a cross by Otsemobor was just too strong for Gibbs as the youngster jumped at the far post and Albion were able to get the ball away.
Albion were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Norwich area when it seemed Doherty was adjudged to have handled, although the ball appeared to strike his knee. Phillips fired the dead ball kick low through the wall, but Marshall held on to the shot close to the goal line.
Albion pressed again, but Greening hooked a left-foot volley well over the top.
City had an opening when Fotheringham played Evans through. But he chose to cut inside rather than shoot and there were appeals for handball when his attempted cross was cut out.
A minute before the interval, Robinson became the first player to be shown the yellow card when he chopped down Huckerby in full flight, but Pattison's free-kick was easily cleared.
City missed a golden chance to equalise as the first half entered stoppage time. Cureton played Gibbs in on the left side of the box and although his first attempt to cross was cut out, Gibbs managed to float the ball towards the far post where Huckerby volleyed wide with the goal at his mercy.
Robinson then had to go off for attention to a head wound as tempers became frayed and the home crowd became more irate. As the teams went off for half-time, Camara and Huckerby were both protesting to the official.
During the interval, the Lowestoft Town team - heading for Wembley in the FA Vase final next month - did a lap of honour round the Carrow Road pitch.
As play resumed, Gibbs sent in the first shot, but was well off target.
Robinson had reappeared for Albion with his head bandaged and there were no changes to either side.
Cureton came close to levelling two minutes after the break when Marshall's long drop kick bounced in the Albion half and, with a first time attempt, the striker lobbed the ball just over the crossbar.
At the other end Doherty made a good recovery from a slip in his own area, just managing to touch the ball back to Marshall before Phillips could pounce.
It was a lively start to the half and Gera very nearly extended Albion's lead when his venomous shot rebounded off the crossbar, Marshall diving on the ball to prevent Bednar from scoring.
Evans sent in a header from Huckerby's cross as City counterattacked, but Kiely was well placed to gather it.
The visitors broke again and a shot from Koren took an awkward to deflection off Shackell, forcing Marshall to kick clear.
It was end-to-end stuff at this stage and a cross from Otsemobor presented Cureton with the opportunity for a header but it was straight at Kiely.
Huckerby rounded off an excellent run with a cross into the six-yard box which looked so inviting but somehow eluded three yellow shirts, a lucky escape for Albion.
With 12 minutes gone in the second period, Cureton missed a golden chance when he was set up by a header from Evans but volleyed wildly over the top.
It was non-stop action and as Albion switched to the attack, Morrison sent a curling effort wide.
City won a free-kick on the edge of the Albion area when Evans was fouled but after long deliberation, they rather wasted it when Fotheringham played it short to Evans, whose shot thumped into the Albion wall.
There was an angry reaction from the home crowd to a challenge from Bednar on Shackell, which left both men worse for wear, but referee Williamson allowed play to carry on.
Cureton's miss seemed to signal the time for a change and after 63 minutes, he was replaced by the veteran Dublin.
With 25 minutes left Albion made a double change, swapping their strike force of Phillips and Bednar for fresh faces in Moore and Miller.
Dublin was inches away from getting his head to a Huckerby cross as City carved another opening and the Canaries were certainly giving it everything. A great ball by Fotheringham sent Huckerby clear again, but his attempt to find Evans with a low cross was cut out by a defender.
West Brom made their final change midway through the half when Albrechtsen replaced the bandaged Robinson.
City decided to swap Huckerby and Gibbs onto opposite flanks for the final 20 minutes but before they had any chance to test it out, Albion went 2-0 ahead through Gera. A headed clearance from Shackell fell to Gera, five yards outside the area, as he chested the ball down, before striking the ball past Marshall.
City were soon back in the game, however, when Evans scored for the third game in a row, this time from the penalty spot. It was certainly a delayed decision by the official after Barnett clearly handled a header from Dublin, but play was allowed to continue as far as the Norwich half before the referee noticed the linesman flagging. Play was brought back to the Albion area and after their protests died down, Evans coolly side-footed the penalty past Kiely.
A minute later, City made another change with Chadwick replacing Gibbs.
Doherty was shown the yellow card a minute later for protesting about a free-kick awarded to Albion on the edge of the Norwich area. Clement took it, left footed, but curled his shot just wide.
It was certainly a thrilling second half and Shackell headed just off target from a cross by Otsemobor as Norwich pressed for the equaliser.
With 10 minutes left Shackell was shown the yellow card for a body check which handed Albion another free-kick. Greening took it and it floated across the face of the goal but a touch from Otsemobor gave Albion a corner.
The referee was not having the best of afternoons and he infuriated the home crowd by being over fussy as Albion waited to take the corner, calling over captains Fotheringham and Greening to issue a lecture.
Roeder made his final change with seven minutes left when Russell replaced Camara with Pattison dropping to left back.
With three minutes left Dublin was the next player booked, penalised for a foul committed while he was sitting on the floor.
City had another dead ball opportunity with just over a minute left, but Fotheringham's corner was a poor one and was easily cleared.
As the game entered five minutes of stoppage time, Miller had the ball in the net for Albion, but the celebrations were cut short by the offside flag.
As City staged one last assault, Fotheringham found Russell on the right but Kiely managed to gather the substitutes' cross under pressure from Shackell.