Oli's heroics make him City's supersub hero
Chris Lakey Carrow Road has a new hero after Oli Johnson lit up his new home with a stunning double last night. Magic Johnson - a January signing from Stockport - walked off the pitch with the chants of "Oli, Oli" ringing in his ears.
Carrow Road has a new hero after Oli Johnson lit up his new home with a stunning double last night.
Magic Johnson - a January signing from Stockport - walked off the pitch with the chants of "Oli, Oli" ringing in his ears.
And how he deserved the acclaim, if only for the way he settled a severe case of nerves.
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Southend had gone ahead at the very end of a frustrating first half for the Canaries, but within 10 minutes of Johnson's arrival it was all level - and with almost the final kick of the game it was all over.
But amongst the euphoria of victory there will be worries over the manner of the performance, with Carrow Road heaving with frustration at times.
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Once again, it's becoming a fraught business supporting the Canaries, but manager Paul Lambert will argue that a win is a win - and come the end of the season it won't matter.
Losing at home to Southampton on Saturday was one thing - losing at home to Southend would have made for some very awkward questions.
To be fair, City did have to go into battle without Darel Russell, who earlier in the day lost his appeal against his three-match suspension after his red card against Southampton on Saturday.
In came Stephen Hughes, with Anthony McNamee given his first start, after six appearances as a sub, ahead of Korey Smith, who had to be content with a place on the bench.
After that, it was a case of seeing just how Lambert would change his tactics - 4-4-2 or sticking with the diamond.
And though it was fluid it certainly started as the former, with Hoolahan a nominal left winger with licence to roam a little.
With just 40 seconds on the clock Hughes had a great opportunity to open the scoring after McNamee had pulled the ball back on the right, giving the Scot a clear shot from the edge of the area only to see the ball go a yard wide of the left-hand post.
Lambert had promised a strong start - and that was it.
McNamee showed what we'd been missing inside six minutes with a lovely cross which Grant Holt couldn't quite control. Another McNamee cross saw Holt's header blocked before Russell Martin fired wide.
City looked sharp in the early stages, Southend looked nervous - and the home fans sensed blood.
McNamee's ability to put in a decent cross was evident again on 12 minutes when he landed one on the head of Chris Martin, whose effort drifted wide, and just to torment the defence the winger popped up on the left flank, from where a free-kick looked to be perfect for Michael Nelson sliding in from close range, the big defender claiming he was held.
Scott Vernon blasted one well wide on 17 minutes as Southend finally got within range of Fraser Forster's goal.
The visitors lost central defender Jean-Yves M'Voto after a challenge by Holt, forcing a reshuffle at the back - but before the change was made they were almost undone on 26 minutes when Chris Martin produced a brilliant turn in the box but shot just wide from eight yards.
A little of the early huff and puff had gone out of Norwich, and the visitors were showing a little more, passing the ball around well and beginning to frustrate.
Simon Lappin brought the crowd to life on 38 minutes when Chris Martin got into the area, couldn't find the space for a shot and after what seemed life an age, knocked it back for the midfielder to fire in a shot which keeper Steve Mildenhall did well to tip over.
It sparked a good little spell by City, exposing Southend's frailties at the back - but again they didn't make it pay. The frustration was that Southend are clearly a struggling side, but City were finding it difficult to break them down.
The punishment came as the game moved into time added on. Damian Scannell got past left-back Michael Rose on the right, his cross came off Gary Doherty's chest in the six-yard box, Nelson couldn't clear, and Vernon was there to slam it home at the near post.
It was a frustrating end to a frustrating half for the Canaries, who couldn't afford a similar second half.
Rose almost put one on the head of Chris Martin soon after the break and Holt went close on 51 minutes when his right-foot shot from 20 yards hit the outside of the right-hand post after McNamee had dispossessed Jean-Francois Christophe.
It was another good spell, but again it was short-lived.
Forster was quick to pick up Franck Moussa's through ball to Vernon as Southend posed a rare threat, while at the other end Hoolahan fired over after a mistake by Pat Baldwin and Holt on the stretch headed a McNamee corner wide.
Lambert was tearing his hair out at times - he wasn't alone, especially when Chris Martin's shot was blocked after Hoolahan opted not to take the chance of a shot. Doherty headed wide from the corner.
Lambert made a double change on 68 minutes, Smith and Johnson replacing Hughes and Lappin.
Alan McCormack pulled off a super tackle as Chris Martin raced into the Southend area - but Russell Martin had to clear up at the other end as Vernon took Christophe's punt forward in his stride and got past Doherty before being denied a shot on goal.
It was becoming more and more frustrating - but then Johnson did his magic, knocking the ball into an empty net after Holt's shot after he picked up a clearance by Baldwin had been parried by the keeper.
Johnson almost got a second when he got his head to McNamee's cross from the right, but looped his header over the bar as City pressed for a vital winner.
Paterson and Francis tested Forster as Southend launched their own bid for late glory - but then Johnson struck again, heading home McNamee's corner at the near post to send Carrow Road wild.