Norwich City 2, Watford 0
Chris Lakey Next stop Ipswich – and if the Canaries bandwagon keeps rolling along like this, who knows what might happen. A goal in each half – one scored by Lady Luck, cunningly disguised as Watford’s 18-year-old midfielder Daniel Rose, the second from the head of skipper Gary Doherty with seven minutes remaining – breathed new life into City’s relegation battle.
Next stop Ipswich - and if the Canaries bandwagon keeps rolling along like this, who knows what might happen.
A goal in each half - one scored by Lady Luck, cunningly disguised as Watford's 18-year-old midfielder Daniel Rose, the second from the head of skipper Gary Doherty with seven minutes remaining - breathed new life into City's relegation battle.
It was pulsating stuff at a packed Carrow Road, where players and supporters fed off each other's enthusiasm and commitment to create an atmosphere more akin to a top-of-the-table clash.
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City's big players put in big performances just when it mattered most, leaving everyone in the right frame of mind for a derby clash like no other in six days' time. Alan Lee was perpetual and often indignation motion up front; Jason Shackell simply immense at the back; Jon Otsemobor used all his skills in the right way and was a major threat and a defensive lynchpin. The list goes on - they're just the stand-out names.
Not everything went to plan: no one really expected Forest to get a draw at Sheffield United, while Southampton are still hanging in there after beating Crystal Palace. However, Barnsley's 3-1 home defeat by Swansea keeps them firmly in the mix, even though they have a game in hand, while Plymouth might still be feeling a little edgy.
- 1 Farke linked with Bundesliga vacancy
- 2 Transfer rumour: Everton unsure about price tag for City star
- 3 Ian Clarke: Seven reasons why Norwich City will survive in top flight
- 4 'We want to stop the party' - Cherries fired up for City clash
- 5 Pompey boss praises 'perfect model' at Norwich City
- 6 'That's the bottom line' - Dowell clear on his City priorities
- 7 'Like a shield' - Canaries boss heaps praise on Webber's work
- 8 Paddy Davitt: 'Little old Norwich' tag is a poor fit
- 9 City confirm fans will not return to Carrow Road this season
- 10 'Auld Enemy' clash on the backburner for City captain
But none of that would have mattered much had City not won, which is probably why they set about Watford like a dog chasing a cat.
Within four minutes, two incidents had cranked up the atmosphere to boiling point, not that the fans needed any excuses.
David Mooney robbed Jay DeMerit after just 20 seconds on the right of the area and tried to slide the ball across to the unmarked Alan Gow - but keeper Scott Loach blocked.
Then City players surrounded referee Steve Tanner after DeMerit appeared to elbow away a Sammy Clingan free-kick under pressure from Doherty - and again City were denied a great chance for an early goal.
Darel Russell saw a shot blocked as the Canaries went for the throat - if calm was needed we weren't getting it, the volume increasing with each touch.
It wasn't all one way, Tommy Smith doing well to escape the attentions of Clingan all the way down Watford's left flank before getting in a good looking cross which Shackell did well to head away.
On 10 minutes City had a succession of corners, the first poor, the second perfect and the third headed behind for a fourth. This time Clingan took from in front of the Snake Pit and yet again Watford cleared - but the sequence ended at five.
Watford were by no means second best, Otsemobor twice having to clear danger in his own area, and then Russell forced to hack away after a dangerous low corner by Jobi McAnuff.
Then, with 15 minutes gone, City struck lucky - or made their own luck, depending on how you view it. Otsemobor cleared up well at the back and slipped the ball inside to Carney. The Aussie waited as Otsemobor continued his run down the middle and returned the pass. Otsemobor checked, but Rose's momentum carried him into the challenge, and he clipped it superbly over his own keeper.
Temperatures began to rise, with Lee apoplectic after being held back - but Mooney should have made it tears of joy rather than frustration on 18 minutes when he missed a free header from Clingan's free-kick from the left. It was one of those glorious opportunities that simply can't go begging in the circumstances.
Shackell had to be alert to beat Will Hoskins to the ball after City left too much space in their own area and then Hoskins saw a thundering shot crash off David Marshall's bar as Watford began to settle. If the keeper got a touch it was a cracking save - if not it was a touch of good fortune. Another one.
It was certainly a wake-up call - Mooney had one from a team-mate later when a lazy pass went out of play and Clingan gave him the glare that suggested he needed to up his game.
With half an hour gone the early impetus was clearly slowing, and Watford began to ask a few questions of the City defence with a string of corners of their own - although Shackell was equal to most of them.
It didn't last long: City woke up when Otsemobor overlapped and laid it off to Gow, whose left-foot curler was deflected for corner number eight.
Gow was even closer on 39 minutes when Otsemobor once again made ground, the Scot cutting inside and sending in a low shot which the keeper did well to tip around the post. Russell then curled one wide from the left as City found a second wind late in the half.
t Half-time: Norwich City 1, Watford 0
Lee went into the book for a foul on Adrian Mariappa 10 minutes into the second half, but perhaps it upped the tempo - Gow shot just wide from the left as City put together their best passing movement of the half so far.
But Lee was walking a tightrope with referee Tanner, who was clearly unimpressed by his constant complaining - a second yellow could have had serious consequences, but he kept his head and made yet another massive contribution to the Canaries cause.
The big man lit up Carrow Road with a chase down left midfield and a thundering left-foot shot which came back off the woodwork - and when Gow's attempt to pick up the rebound came to nothing, Lee used his right foot to flash another effort just wide.
The temperature rose yet again when Shackell's header from Clingan's header on 74 minutes was cleared off the line by Jon Harley, but how City needed a second insurance goal.
Lee, by now settled, had the ball in the net in the 80th minute, but his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag - and despite the frustration there were few complaints.
City were getting closer to a second goal that would calm a few nerves and, as if to order, it came, lifting the roof off Carrow Road.
With exactly seven minutes left, Clingan's corner was met by the superb Shackell. His header bounced into the ground, came off the bar - and there was Doherty to head home.
The ground shook with appreciation, relief, a release of nervous tension - and that was just the dug-out.
It signalled a double change by Gunn, Adam Drury for Bertrand and Simon Lappin for the clearly frustrated Gow.
With four minutes of time added on, City had it in the bag - Watford were conceding free-kicks like there was no tomorrow - but City will hope there are lots more tomorrows for them yet.
t Result: Norwich City 2, Watford 0
t Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Doherty, Shackell, Bertrand, Carney, Russell, Clingan, Gow, Mooney, Lee. Subs: Nelson, Drury, Croft, Lappin, McDonald.
t Watford: Loach, Mariappa, DeMerit, Williamson, Doyley, McAnuff, Jenkins, Rose, Harley, Smith, Hoskins. Subs: Lee, Cork, Cauna, Henderson, Stepanov.
t Referee: Steve Tanner (Somerset)