Norwich City are League One champions
David Cuffley SLIDESHOW: Norwich City 2, Gillingham 0: Second-half goals by Darel Russell and Michael Nelson clinched the League One title for Norwich City in front of another packed house at Carrow Road.
Norwich City 2, Gillingham 0
Second-half goals by Darel Russell and Michael Nelson clinched the League One title for Norwich City in front of another packed house at Carrow Road.
Returning to the green, green grass of home after their promotion-clinching win at Charlton, the Canaries, with manager Paul Lambert watching from the directors' box, needed only a point to be crowned champions but took a long while to gain the upper hand against a Gillingham side who could twice have taken the lead.
Fraser Forster made two fine saves from Dennis Oli after the interval to keep his side on terms before Russell broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute.
Russell, who had scored a stoppage-time equaliser at Gillingham in September, added his second of the season with a curling shot that struck the crossbar and bounced behind the line, the assistant referee signalling the goal.
- 1 Ex-Norwich City striker set for 10-match ban
- 2 Bullish Smith puts City rivals on notice
- 3 City coach Bramley on Premier League, playing principles and strategy
- 4 'I tried to have a little go': Delia Smith on Truss's Carrow Road visits
- 5 'A front line to be jealous about' - Appleton's verdict on Norwich City
- 6 Smith takeaways: City boss on Hayden setback; Gibbs boost; international crew and a mad October
- 7 PRESSER: Blackpool v Norwich City - Key duo fit for duty; Hayden setback
- 8 Smith's 'pride' at Canaries' reset
- 9 Will Jennings: Don't be fooled; fans still care about their beloved Norwich City
- 10 Ex-Norwich City midfielder confirmed as Huddersfield boss
Defender Michael Nelson wrapped up the points in the 82nd minute when he scored for the second week running from a corner by Simon Lappin.
The City starting line-up showed four changes from the side that began the 1-0 win at Charlton that clinched promotion.
Skipper and top scorer Grant Holt returned after a two-match ban, midfielder Korey Smith recovered from an ankle injury and defender Michael Rose and winger Anthony McNamee were both recalled to the eleven.
Adam Drury, Lappin and Oli Johnson were all relegated to the substitutes' bench, while there was no sign of Russell Martin in the 18.
Gillingham were without skipper Barry Fuller, facing surgery on his broken nose, so 18-year-old Jack Payne deputised at right-back.
Leading scorer Simeon Jackson, with 18 goals this season, again had to be content with a place on the bench.
City boss Lambert was forced to watch the game from the stand as he was serving a one-match touchline ban over an incident in the 3-1 defeat at Tranmere on Good Friday. Head of football operations Gary Karsa was also banned from the touchline for one game.
As Gillingham kicked off, City appeared to be operating with Smith in the wide right role and McNamee on the left.
A long throw by Rose gave them the first opportunity but Holt was unable to get his head to it.
With seven minutes gone, City attacked down the left and Holt got a touch to Rose's cross but it lacked any direction.
Bentley headed clear from McNamee's cross as City threatened again, then Nelson headed over from McNamee's corner but was adjudged to have fouled Dennehy.
A foul by Bentley on Holt gave Chris Martin a free-kick opportunity from the left-hand corner of the penalty area and he curled a right-foot shot over the top.
Chris Martin went closer to opening the scoring in the 18th minute when he did well to control Smith's lob into the penalty area and fired a low left-foot shot just wide, under pressure from Bentley.
Russell fired wide after 28 minutes when McNamee's corner was only partially cleared but it had been a fairly low-key opening half-hour.
Chris Martin needed treatment for a bang on the head, giving both sides the chance of a drinks break on a warm afternoon.
The closing stages of the half were littered with misplaced passes and as the interval arrived, neither 'keeper had had to make a save.
t Half-time: Norwich City 0, Gillingham 0
Elliott replaced McNamee at the interval and moved into attack alongside Holt, with Chris Martin operating in a slightly deeper role.
City won a free-kick in the opening minute of the half, but Russell's kick was headed clear.
Chris Martin created space for a shot but pulled his left-foot effort wide.
In the fourth minute after the break, Gillingham carved out the best opening of the match and should have gone ahead as Oli broke down the right, cut between Doherty and Rose and struck a left-foot shot that Forster did well to beat away.
Barcham curled a right-foot shot wide as the visitors gave City another nervous moment.
Spillane made an important challenge on Barcham and as Gillingham enjoyed a purple patch, Forster came to City's rescue again. Howe got the better of Nelson and Rose to set up Oli for a close-range effort that Forster clawed away with his left hand.
Jackman fired wide, left-footed, when he might have done better as Gillingham kept up the pressure.
In the 65th minute, City managed a rare shot at goal as Holt chested down Spillane's through-ball, got the better of Bentley and fired just wide.
Elliott headed wide from Chris Martin's cross as City worked a neat move by the left corner flag.
Midway through the half, City made their second change with Lappin replacing Hughes.
Weston earned the first yellow card of the day with 20 minutes left for a foul on Russell.
City felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Dennehy appeared to handle a cross, but at last the 74th minute brought the goal the home crowd had been waiting for, with Russell scoring his second of the season - and his second against Gillingham.
Russell picked up possession as Elliott's progress was blocked and he curled in a right-foot shot that struck the underside of the bar and bounced down behind the line.
The rebound was headed away but the assistant referee signalled that Russell's effort had crossed the line.
Chris Martin was denied by the diving Julian as he tried to extend City's lead.
But City did not have to wait long for a second goal, which came in the 82nd minute with a virtual re-run of the goal that clinched promotion at Charlton.
Lappin's left-footed corner from the right was met by Nelson, who scored with a downward header, his second goal in successive games.
With four minutes left, City made their final change as Johnson replaced skipper Holt.
Dennehy was shown the yellow card for a foul on Smith with two minutes to go.
Despite an appeal to fans to stay in their seats, a small number ran on to the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate City's title win.
t Result: Norwich City 2, Gillingham 0
t Norwich City: Forster; Spillane, Doherty, Nelson, Rose; Smith, Hughes, Russell, McNamee; Holt, Chris Martin.
Subs: Rudd, Drury, Gill, Lappin (for Hughes, 67), McVeigh, Johnson (for Holt, 86), Elliott (for McNamee, 45).
t Gillingham: Julian; Payne, Bentley, Dennehy, Nutter; Miller, Weston, Jackman, Barcham; Howe, Oli.
Subs: Royce, Maher, Palmer, Essam, Wynter, Jackson (for Jackman, 83), Dickson.
t Referee; Trevor Kettle (Berkshire)
t Attendance: 25,227
t Goals: Norwich: Russell (74), Nelson (82)
t Bookings: Norwich: Nelson (81). Gillingham: Weston (70), Dennehy (88).