When Malky left it late to silence the Wolves
- Credit: PA
Malky Mackay was the toast of Norwich on this day on 2002 – Chris Lakey recalls a stunning Sunday afternoon at Carrow Road.
It was fitting that the Scottish man mountain Malky Mackay should rise to head in the goal which effectively sealed Norwich City’s place in the 2002 Championship play-off final.
Mackay had scored twice in the previous three games as City clinched a two-legged semi-final clash against Wolves.
The central defender had been a tower of strength all season, missing just two league games as he and Craig Fleming, an ever-present, repelled all invaders.
On the balmy night of April 28, 2002, Mackay thrust out his formidable chest and prepared to do battle with the likes of Noel Blake and Dean Sturridge, two fine strikers. And when he went into attack, there to greet him were Paul Butler, who rarely took prisoners, and Joleon Lescott.
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It was Sturridge who made the breakthrough after 22 minutes, leaving home fans anxiously waiting for City to get back on level terms and build a healthy advantage to take to the Black Country.
When Mark Rivers levelled on 56 minutes, with a Mackay assist, there was a sight of relief. Finally, things seemed to be going City’s way.
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Then came two headers from two men at opposite ends of the physical scale when it came to aerial supremacy.
The first was from Paul McVeigh, a brilliantly executed effort as he found space in the heart of the Wolves defence to meet Clint Easton’s cross and loop the ball over keeper Michael Oakes and into the top right hand corner. For a bloke who stands five foot six inches it was some effort.
So, that was the lead. But would it be enough?
City needed another goal but, with the match drifting towards added time, it looked unlikely.
Gary Holt brought the ball out of midfield, playing it forward down the right for Alex Notman to chase. He got to the byline at the same time as Mo Camara who slid in. Camara’s legs tangled with the City midfielder who went down and looked up at referee Roger Furnandiz, more in hope than expectation. The whistle blew and City had possibly their last chance. The free-kick was a yard from the line, a few yards from the left edge of the Wolves area.
There were 30 seconds of normal time remaining.
Easton stepped up and from just a couple of places clipped the ball in, aiming for Mackay - again, a yard off the goal-line, a yard off the far post. Same jump, same outcome.
City had a 3-1 lead and Mackay’s late goal proved crucial – three days later they lost the second leg 1-0 at Molineux but went through 3-2 on aggregate.
Mackay scored four goals that season - one in September, three in April.
“I like to leave these goals for late in the season, rather than spread them through the season,” he joked after the game. “Clint asked me on the Friday which eyebrow I’d like the header on so this week it was my right eyebrow.
“It was great to get the two-goal advantage, that helps immensely going to Molineux on Wednesday night. I thought our fitness told today in the last 15, 20 minutes. We were sharper and fitter around the pitch. Obviously when a team goes 2-1 down and the other team are keeping the ball your heads can go down and you get a third and the heads go down even more.
“But I’m not interested in the way Wolves play. I’m interested in Norwich City and the way we passed the ball, courageously, in a high pressure game and with so much riding on it.
“We kept it on the deck – at 1-0 down we still kept the ball on the deck. We never resorted to long ball football and we got three goals back in the second half. We got our just rewards today, most definitely.”
Easton’s contribution shouldn’t be forgotten.
“I know Malky is always on the back stick and if I can get it over the keeper’s head I know nine times out of 10 he will get on the end of them,” he said.
“It has happened in the last two or three games but we have been working on it. It is something we work on in training; it doesn’t just come off like that.
“These things are worked on during the week when nobody sees what goes on at Colney. For the last three or four weeks it has become a weapon for us, a deadly weapon for us.”