Norwich City 2, Stockport County 1
David Cuffley SLIDESHOW: Norwich City skipper Grant Holt scored his 30th goal of the season to clinch victory for the League One leaders over bottom-of-the-table Stockport County. Another near full house saw the Canaries move a step closer to a return to the Championship, but they should have made it a more comfortable afternoon after missing several good chances to build on a 2-1 interval lead.
Norwich City skipper Grant Holt scored his 30th goal of the season to clinch victory for the League One leaders over bottom-of-the-table Stockport County.
Another near full house saw the Canaries move a step closer to a return to the Championship, but they should have made it a more comfortable afternoon after missing several good chances to build on a 2-1 interval lead.
Anthony McNamee's first goal for the club gave the Canaries a third-minute lead, but Stockport were level after 12 minutes when Jabo Ibehre fired home from a rebound after Declan Rudd had saved from Richie Partridge.
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Holt forced the ball home after 25 minutes from a McNamee free-kick for what proved to be the winner, making him the first City player to score 30 goals in a season in all competitions since Ron Davies in 1963-64.
Chris Martin struck the woodwork twice and both Martin and Holt were close to stretching City's lead, but they were unable to add to their tally in a one-sided second half.
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Manager Paul Lambert's starting line-up showed no fewer than five changes from Friday night's 3-1 defeat at Tranmere.
With goalkeeper Fraser Forster suspended after his red card, Declan Rudd continued in goal after playing all but the first 12 minutes at Prenton Park.
Defender Gary Doherty (dead leg) and forward Wes Hoolahan (thigh) were ruled out by injury and replaced by Zak Whitbread and Anthony McNamee.
There were also recalls for midfielder Korey Smith, recovered from a thigh injury, and striker Chris Martin at the expense of Stephen Hughes and Stephen Elliott, relegated to the bench.
On-loan defender Michael Rose was included among the substitutes against his own club as there was no agreement in place between Norwich and Stockport over his eligibility for the game at the time of the loan move.
It took City less than three minutes to go ahead when McNamee celebrated his recall with his first goal for the club.
Holt's crossfield ball found McNamee on the right, outside the Stockport penalty area, and he moved on to his left foot to curl a delightful shot out of reach of 'keeper Fon Williams.
Stockport's first attempt on goal, in the seventh minute, was a long-range effort from Ibehre that swirled high into the crowd.
Holt threatened again with a cross from the right corner flag that landed on the roof of the net.
Jemal Johnson forced Rudd into action for the first time in the 11th minute with a right-foot shot from long range, but the young 'keeper was right behind it.
Stockport were level in the 12th minute when Ibehre was on target this time. A slip by Whitbread allowed Partridge to get on the end of Perkins' pass and get in a shot that Rudd managed to block, but the rebound fell to Ibehre, whose low follow-up effort evaded the efforts of Drury to clear off the line.
Jemal Johnson tried his luck from long range again in the 18th minute but this time he was a yard or two wide of Rudd's left-hand post.
Johnson fired over the bar in the next attack as the Canaries struggled to assert themselves against a lively visiting side.
Stockport were reduced to 10 men for a while as Huntington needed treatment, having his left leg strapped before returning to the action.
City regained the lead in the 25th minute when Holt scored his 30th goal of the season.
McNamee's free-kick from the right side of the penalty area was nodded back by Whitbread at the far post and although 'keeper Fon Williams managed to block his effort, Russell managed to dig the ball out and feed it back to Holt, who sidefooted home through a crowd of players.
Still Stockport looked purposeful and Lappin made a timely challenge on Donnelly on the half-hour to prevent him getting in a shot after Sadler ran at the City defence to set up the chance.
Russell Martin needed treatment for a knock but after returning to the field he was next to bring Fon Williams into action with a low shot to the near post after working a one-two by the right corner flag.
There was a real escape for Stockport three minutes from the break when Chris Martin struck the woodwork from close range. Martin put Holt clear on the left with a diagonal pass and the City skipper pulled back a cross for Martin as he arrived in the six-yard box, but a challenge from Huntington may just have been enough to save the day as Martin's sidefoot effort hit the post, Lappin shooting across goal as he followed up.
t Half-time: Norwich City 2, Stockport County 1
Stockport made a change at the break with Halls replacing Huntington, who had received treatment during the first half.
Three minutes into the half, Nelson's header from a corner by McNamee brought Fon Williams into action and, as the ball dropped, Holt fired into the side netting.
The Canaries generally dominated the opening stages of the second half, but the final ball let them down on several occasions and they were still protecting a rather fragile lead.
Nelson headed over from Lappin's corner on the hour, but City had not carved out any clear-cut chances.
There was a double chance after 64 minutes, however, with Chris Martin and Lappin both close to stretching their side's lead.
First Holt nodded McNamee's cross into the path of Martin, whose close-range effort was well blocked by Fon Williams. Then another McNamee cross to the far post was met by Lappin, sliding in, but at full stretch he sliced his shot wide.
As Stockport counter-attacked, Rudd made a fine save from Donnelly, who appeared to foul Whitbread as he broke away.
There was another escape midway through the half when Drury found Chris Martin, whose shot from a tight angle clipped the inside of the post, via a touch from 'keeper Fon Williams, with Holt just unable to knock in the rebound as Swailes stopped his follow-up effort on the line.
As City kept up the assault, Nelson's shot from outside the area was cleared by Swailes and then Chris Martin's 20-yard drive was saved by Fon Williams.
It proved to be Martin's last involvement when he was replaced by Oli Johnson - playing against his former club - with 15 minutes left.
Substitute Poole forced a corner for Stockport when his shot was deflected wide, but but the visitors were unable to cash in on two successive flag-kicks.
Russell got his head to McNamee's cross as City swept forward again, but his effort was blocked.
With six minutes to go, City made their second change with Hughes replacing Smith.
t Result: Norwich City 2, Stockport County 1
t Norwich City: Rudd; Russell Martin, Nelson, Whitbread, Drury; McNamee, Smith, Russell, Lappin; Chris Martin, Holt.
Subs: Steer, Spillane, Rose, Gill, Hughes (for Smith, 84), Elliott, Oli Johnson (for Chris Martin, 75)
t Stockport County: Fon Williams; Mullins, Huntington, Swailes, Sadler; Partridge, Vincent, Perkins, Jemal Johnson; Donnelly, Ibehre.
Subs: Gerrard, Turnbull, Halls (for Huntingdon, 45), Rowe, Tansey (for Vincent, 74), Poole (for Jemal Johnson, 68), Fisher.
t Referee: Fred Graham (Essex)
t Attendance: 25,353
t Goals: Norwich: McNamee (3), Holt (25). Stockport: Ibehre (12)
t Bookings: Stockport: Jemal Johnson (25).