Norwich City legends, happy clappers and Bennetts’ goals a timely boost for Norwich City

Norwich City players and fans celebrate Elliott Bennett's goal against Reading. Picture: Paul Cheste

Norwich City players and fans celebrate Elliott Bennett's goal against Reading. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City beat Reading 2-1 in the sunshine at Carrow Road on Saturday in what was billed as a “must win six-pointer relegation decider”.

Call it what you will, it was a much needed and very timely boost for Norwich City’s hopes of avoiding relegation and securing another season of Premier League football in 2013-14.

The build-up to the game was almost as dramatic as the match itself. The local press urged home fans to make Carrow Road a “cauldron of noise” to encourage our players. All home fans were issued with cardboard “Happy Clappers” to increase the decibel level. And before the match started City legends Darren Eadie, Dion Dublin, and Darren Huckerby came on to the pitch to wave to the crowd and pump up the atmosphere even further. The City under 18 team who have done so well to reach the FA Youth Cup Final also did a lap of honour

Norwich made two changes to the side beaten 3-1 at Arsenal last week. Garrido returned in place of Whittaker, and Elliott Bennett was recalled instead of Tettey. The Canaries made a promising start; twice in the first five minutes Bennett shot wide and Snodgrass was not far away with a header. The Scot then shot wide and set up Garrido for an attempt which Reading’s giant keeper gathered at the second time of asking. After 18 minutes Turner hobbled off the field injured and Ryan Bennett entered the fray.

A free kick from the lively Snodgrass was wasted when it went directly out of play. Reading hit back with a spell of pressure which yielded three consecutive corners, and their keeper saved from a cross from Elliott Bennett and a volley from Kamara. 0-0 at the interval and despite the fine start and clappers, Reading had had the better of the second period of the first half.

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Four minutes after half-time the giant keeper saved well from Kamara’s flick, but from the resulting corner could only parry Holt’s bullet header and from the rebound Ryan Bennett had all the time he needed to lift the ball into the roof of the net. It was his first goal for the club and his timing was impeccable. Carrow Road celebrated and the clappers started going like… the clappers.

The crescendo of clapping intensified two minutes later when Reading’s keeper, under pressure from Holt, failed to cut out Martin’s cross and instead palmed the ball to Elliott Bennett, whose shot looped up into the goal after hitting the keeper’s boot. The Canaries were rampant now and it seemed only a question of when the third goal would come. Kamara’s shot wide was followed by a header from Holt which went over the bar. Reading’s keeper saved from Snodgrass at the expense of a corner and then saved a header from Kamara. Snodgrass earned yet another booking. Turner came to sit with the subs to sip his tea and enjoy the fun.

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But Reading silenced the clappers after 72 minutes when the City defenders stood off McCleary who won the ball in midfield from Howson, ran through and shot from fully 25 yards. Bunn got a hand to the ball but could not save it. It was now Reading’s turn to dominate as Karacan and Blackman went close.

After 80 minutes Elliott Bennett went off to great applause and Tettey came on. With three minutes remaining Snodgrass was replaced by Pilkington. For some reason the fourth official awarded five minutes of injury time, but City held out by wasting time by the Reading corner flag and the final whistle was greeted by cheers and jubilation, as was the news that Wigan had lost.

So City came good when it mattered and won an invaluable three points, which meant that whatever happens they will finish above both QPR and Reading. We are edging ever closer to the magical 40 points. Ryan Bennett was man of the match, but for me Holt’s performance was a revelation. He ran, he fought, he huffed and he puffed, and he had several attempts on goal. It was the Holt of old. More of the same against Stoke please Holty. If we win at the Britannia we can really start to celebrate. We are almost there, but need to be mathematically safe before we break out the champagne. Of course the champagne would taste even better if we beat Villa and send them down.

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