Norwich City 2, Southampton 2
Chris Lakey The Bryan Gunn effect was paying off again at half-time in the home game against struggling Southampton tonight. Two goals within the space of two minutes just before the interval pout the Canaries firmly in control against a poor-looking Saints side.
Bryan Gunn discovered that you can't always work miracles overnight as City squandered a valuable home lead - while their fellow Championship strugglers made hay.
Saints will be buoyed from their come-from-behind performance, but that's nothing compared to the feelings at Charlton, Doncaster and Nottingham Forest who all breathed new life into their relegation battles.
For Gunn it will be a learning curve of sorts: his first match in charge had looked to be heading his way with goals from skipper Mark Fotheringham and Wes Hoolahan within the space of two minutes just before the interval. It was deserved after a half in which the visitors were poor, simple as that. But a change of tactics turned the game around, and two substitutions in particular.
Kayne McLaggon made it interesting just before the hour mark, before Marek Saganowski ensured Saints took home a point 12 minutes from time.
A game of two halves, perhaps, but City can't afford to give away gifts, especially at Carrow Road - especially with Gunn's big tests to come with his first away game - at Doncaster on Friday - followed by the tough trip to Wolves next Tuesday.
- 1 City old boy Martin rebuffed job interest amid Watford reports
- 2 'They've handled this badly but I'm glad Teemu won' - fans react to Pukki POTS award
- 3 Norwich City transfer rumours: Canaries interested in West Brom's Kipre
- 4 Canaries on the right track with Dean Smith, insists Zimmermann
- 5 'Why are the disillusioned leaving their calling card by way of an empty seat?'
- 6 Fears Spurs fans may infiltrate home end at Norwich City match
- 7 Ian Clarke: Time for City to end miserable season with a big scalp
- 8 Teemu Pukki named as Norwich City Player of the Season
- 9 Chris Sutton: Pukki is a Norwich legend... Now they must keep him
- 10 PODCAST: A City point to discuss as attentions turn to next season
Gunn stuck with the side which served him so well against Barnsley 10 days earlier, even down to the five men on the bench.
The only change was on the touchlines, where new coach Ian Crook took a bow before the game - more than a decade after leaving Carrow Road after a 12-year playing career.
New Saints boss Paul Wotte made four changes, leaving out Bradley Wright-Phillips and Morgan Schneiderlen and dropping Marek Saganowski to the bench. Andrew Surman was suspended. In came Paul Wotton, sitting between defence and midfield, Jan-Paul Saeijs at centre-back, and midfielders Adam Lallana and Simon Gillet.
The Barclay were in full voice within a couple of minutes - just as Gunn had hoped - and were rewarded with a dangerous free-kick from Sammy Clingan on the left which Saints managed to clear.
Wes Hoolahan was already showing some of the freedom of expression that appears to have been granted him by the new manager.
Ryan Smith earned Saints the first corner of the game when he and Ryan Bertrand chased a long ball down the City left - although the City defender was convinced he was pushed into it. Simon Gillet's corner was met by the head of Chris Perry, but safely cleared.
City defender Gary Doherty brought down striker David McGoldrick five yards outside the area - earning him a harsh yellow card which he would have to carry for almost 80 minutes.
Paul Wotton committed a similar offence outside the Saints area when he brought down Hoolahan - but referee Lee Mason got it right this time and kept his name out of the notebook. Clingan's free-kick was straight into the wall, and Jon Otsemobor's fancy reverse pass to Lee Croft down the right didn't work out. When the ball went back into the danger area, Jamie Cureton could only touch it on with his thigh, and keeper Kelvin Davis allowed it to run out of play.
With quarter of an hour gone City were getting into their stride, although Simon Gillet made a timely tackle in the penalty area to prevent Hoolahan getting in a shot after Croft and Russell did well to keep in a deep, curling cross by Bertrand.
Wotton was treading on thin ice with a foul on Clingan which went unpunished - a decision the home fans had their on views on.
The excitement levels were struggling to rise above the average, with Wotton's role just in front of the defence stifling City - in much the same way as Barnsley had done 10 days earlier.
It was Hoolahan who had the first shot of the game - on 28 minutes - when he managed to work himself some space in the area and fire in a left-foot shot which Davis did well to turn around his post.
Saints lost Lee Holmes to injury soon after, the midfielder finally succumbing after limping through the previous five minutes.
Referee Mason finally squared it up as far as bookings were concerned, with Gillet joining Doherty after bringing Hoolahan down in full flow.
The first signs of frustration were beginning to set in as half-time approached, not helped by an offside whistle that caught out three City players in one fell swoop.
Bertrand showed the strikers the way with a run inside from the left which ended with a right-foot shot that was safely held by Davis.
Wotton, meanwhile, was escaping yet again - although City almost benefited from the free-kick he conceded when Clingan found the head of Otsemobor - but the full-back found only Davis.
Moments later good work by Otsemobor found Croft on the right. The winger squared it to Cureton on the edge of the area, but his shot was weak and Davis gathered with ease to his right.
The pressure was beginning to mount - and City took full advantage with a double whammy.
First off the mark, six minutes before the break, was Fotheringham, who ran into the area to collect Cureton's perfect pass after Russell had won a good header. The City skipper timed his run perfectly and rammed it past Davis with hardly a break of stride.
If anyone in the ground needed a reminder of the benefits of the feelgood factor, then it came just two minutes later - and in the most impressive fashion. This time it was Lallana who was the guilty party, upending Russell near the halfway line. Clingan tapped the kick a couple of yards to his left, Hoolahan took over and, with Saints either asleep or deliberately not bothering to close him down, advanced 15 yards before smashing in a superb left-footed shot from fully 30 yards.
It was a magnificent strike, but even then it could have been better for City: Russell broke well and found Cureton to his right, but Davis produced a quality save to palm away his drive from the edge of the box - and Doherty saw his accurate header from the flag kick cleared by a desperate Saints defence.
t Half-time: Norwich City 2, Southampton 0
Saints added some extra firepower for the second half, with Marek Saganowski replacing right midfielder Smith - and they certainly needed it.
Croft went into the notebook for a foul on Saints sub Kayne McLaggon - innocuous and possibly his first misdemeanour of the evening.
McLaggon shot a yard over, but Marshall was still largely redundant, although Saints were proving to be a much different proposition.
Jonathan Grounds headed a Clingan cross wide as City went for the third goal which would surely kill off the visitors - but then suddenly it was game on as Saints equalised.
A corner was cleared by Fotheringham, but only as far as McLaggon who, from 20-plus yards fired in a shot which took at least one deflection and left Marshall flat-footed. Saints, somehow, were back in the game and City were on something of a knife-edge for the first time.
Cureton slipped a shot wide after a good long ball from Otsemobor as City attempted to restore the two-goal gap - and pour water on Southampton's new-found spark. Hoolahan was at the centre of most of City's best play, although guilty of one touch too many at times, while Wotton finally went in to the book for one foul too many.
City were coming to life again, spurred on no doubt by the Saints goal - although McGoldrick almost helped them on their way when he came close to heading past his own keeper.
As the minutes ticked by and the goal didn't come there was a definite feeling of an impending problem - which was confirmed when Saganowski rose unchallenged to head in Lloyd James' cross from the right on 78 minutes.
It set up a difficult final 10 minutes for City, desperate not to disappoint in front of their own crowd but finding it difficult to trouble Davis.
Gunn needed to shuffle his pack and brought on Arturo Lupoli and Matty Pattison for Cureton and Hoolahan respectively -with Carl Cort joining the fray in place of Fotheringham just as the fourth official indicated a further four minutes remaining.
Russell headed goalwards in time added on as he returned Davis' punch with interest, but Jason Euell was there to deny City a dramatic win.
t Result: Norwich City 2, Southampton 2
t Norwich City: Marshall 6, Otsemobor 7, Doherty 7, Grounds 7, Bertrand 6, Croft 6, Fotheringham (Cort 90) 6, Clingan 7, Hoolahan 7 (Pattison 84), Russell 7, Cureton 6 (Lupoli 84)
Subs: Nelson, Bell
Goals: Fotheringham 40, Hoolahan 42
t Southampton: Davis, James, Perry, Saeijs, Molyneux, Wotton, Smith (Saganowski 46), Lallana, Gillet (Euell 73), Holmes (McLaggon 28), McGoldrick
Subs: Forecast, Lancashire
Goals: McLaggon 57, Saganowski 78
t Referee: Lee Mason