One clean sheet, four great goals, three priceless points, 14 Canary heroes, 24,000 delirious supporters, at least one more season in the top flight, and a £60 million bonanza
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Carrow Road was filled with the sound of Happy Clapping again on Sunday. This week the inspiration was provided by former Canaries Bill Punton, Terry Alcock, Adam Drury, and Simon “King of Spain” Lappin, all of whom were presented to the crowd before the match.
And the Canaries responded with their best performance of the season, sweeping aside West Bromwich Albion and winning 4-0. In doing so they ensured another season of Premier League football for our club, as well as the financial bonanza which goes with that status.
Republic of Ireland manager Trappatoni was present at the match, presumably running his eye over Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was there too, along with another 24,000 Canary fans hoping that Norwich would be able to retain their Premier League status in the penultimate game of their season.
City fielded almost the same team that played against Aston Villa last week – the only change being in goal, where Ruddy returned after a long absence through injury. Urged on by a noisy crowd, the Canaries made a bright and energetic start, winning three corners in the first 20 minutes and attacking down both flanks. After 24 minutes they took a richly deserved lead. WBA keeper Foster could only parry Hoolahan’s attempted flick, and Snodgrass was on hand to lash the rebound into the roof of the net. Wave after wave of yellow clad attackers continued to threaten the Albion goal. Hoolahan went close after 41 minutes, and City might have had a penalty when the giant Olsson appeared to handle. City won two more corners. Howson was booked just before half-time.
Matt Juler, Away travel officer of the Capital Canaries, was presented with the award of Aviva Fan of the year at half-time. Congratulations Matt on your well-deserved award for all the hard work you put in organising our group travel to away games.
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Albion made two changes at half-time, but Norwich continued to dominate and the large contingent of Baggies fans, many of whom were in fancy dress, had been given little cause for celebration. Two goals for the Canaries in the space of three minutes then wrapped up the game. The first was bizarre. As Holt ran on to Hoolahan’s return pass he was challenged by Olsson and Foster. The centre half left the ball for his keeper to clear, and Foster miskicked completely, leaving Holt with the simplest of tasks to walk the ball into the unguarded net for his seventh goal of the season.
The next came when Snodgrass hit a free kick, Ryan Bennett touched it on and wheeled away to celebrate his goal, which was later awarded as an own goal to WBA defender McAuley, making it the fourth own goal the defender has conceded to Norwich City during his career. Many City fans will remember the two he conceded when Norwich won 5-1 at Poorman Road in 2011, when McAuley was an Ipswich player.
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Hoolahan was booked after 71 minutes, and moments later was substituted by Tettey. At the same time Elliott Bennett replaced Snodgrass. WBA brought on Odemwingie with 10 minutes remaining, to a chorus of boos from the Albion fans who have not forgiven him for his attempted defection to QPR during the January transfer window. Pilkington almost added a fourth goal for Norwich but was denied by a good save from Foster.
With five minutes remaining, Holt, who had had an excellent game, made way for Becchio. In the final minute of normal (non Fergie) time, Howson strode forward, played a one-two with Becchio and the ball flew like a rocket into the Albion goal. It was Howson’s first goal of the season, and arguably Norwich’s goal of the season. Even referee Howard Webb had an excellent game.
So Norwich are now safe from the threat of relegation and in line for a large injection of TV cash. Congratulations to the players, the management, the board, and the fans. This is a time for celebration. The analysis and the speculation about personnel changes for next season can wait. Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! The only question is why it took us so long to produce such a good and positive performance. If we had played to our potential and produced more displays like that and we would have been contenders for the Champions League instead of relegation candidates. Funny old game, football.