Photo Gallery: Norwich City’s Jed Steer’s dream start a nightmare for West Brom boss Roy Hodgson
West Brom 1, Norwich City 2: It was not possible to tell, from the Press box vantage point at The Hawthorns, whether poor Roy Hodgson was indulging in that painful habit of his – caught on camera in recent weeks to the amusement of thousands on the worldwide web – of banging his head against the back of the dug-out.
If he was, the West Bromwich Albion manager was probably trying to wake up from an awful recurring nightmare. In it, his team dominates the first half of the game, finds the opposing goalkeeper in inspired form, goes behind against the run of play, equalises after the break but then gets caught out when the visitors grab a late winner.
If he thought he’d seen it all somewhere before, he had, just a fortnight earlier. His bad dream was accompanied by a nasty dose of yellow fever as Norwich City inflicted the umpteenth home defeat his team has suffered this season.
After the Canaries’ 2-1 Premier League away win over Albion, pundit Mark Lawrenson was one of those moved to say that lightning does not strike twice, and it is true that when the same fixture is repeated in a matter of days, one seldom gets the same result.
Yet Paul Lambert’s Canaries have made a mockery of many of football’s long-held “truths” over the past couple of years, and if anyone thought they would happily trade their place in the FA Cup for the three points they gained two weeks before, they were in for a rude awakening.
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Instead, goals from skipper Grant Holt, his ninth of the season, and substitute Simeon Jackson, his fourth in his last seven outings, booked City a place in the fifth round of the competition for only the fourth time in 20 seasons, with a home tie against Leicester giving them a very realistic chance of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 1992.
So long has it been since City had a scent of Wembley that the real hero of the day at The Hawthorns was not even born the last time the Canaries were in the last eight of the FA Cup. Goalkeeper Jed Steer is not 20 until September, but handled his senior debut like he handled the ball for 90-plus minutes of this fourth round tie, with the assurance of a much more experienced campaigner.
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Steer’s inclusion was one of five changes made by Lambert after the 0-0 draw against Chelsea. Yet the manager has rotated his squad to such good effect that City are still unbeaten in 2012.
After a subdued first 20 minutes, when the young ’keeper dealt confidently with all that came his way, he produced a wonderful save to keep his side on terms.
It looked a goal all the way as Jerome Thomas, once again Albion’s most dangerous player, connected sweetly with a cross by Gonzalo Jara Reyes, but Steer did superbly to push his first-time shot on to the crossbar and away to safety.
Albion stepped up a gear and Marc Antoine Fortun� glanced a header over from Graham Dorrans’ corner, while Dorrans curled in a free-kick that Steer clutched above his head with both hands.
But it was City who took the lead 10 minutes before the break, a beautifully-worked goal as Wes Hoolahan’s pass picked out Elliott Bennett on the right and the recalled winger’s well-judged centre was perfect for Holt to fire home.
Steer saved from Simon Cox before the break, but he was not beaten until nine minutes into the second half.
Thomas collected full-back Joe Mattock’s long ball down the left and the winger evaded Russell Martin’s despairing challenge and delivered a low cross towards the near post, where Fortun� coolly sidefooted home.
The replay that neither manager wanted began to look likely, especially when Lambert withdrew attacking trio Holt, Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington. Yet City regained some impetus and midfield pair David Fox and Andrew Crofts both brought former England ’keeper Ben Foster into action before Jackson struck with five minutes left.
The Canadian pounced when defender Craig Dawson failed control a simple throw-in from Mattock, whipping the ball off his toe and finishing clinically as he drilled a low shot past Foster in a flash.
Albion substitute Shane Long, with six goals in his previous six outings against Norwich, thought he may have had a penalty with an optimistic lunge that did not impress referee Oliver, but then the striker was denied by Steer, who did splendidly to claw his header away.
Foster saved from Jackson on the stroke of 90 minutes after a neat touch by Aaron Wilbraham put him through, but at the other end Steer was enjoying a memorable debut and, after five additional minutes were displayed by the fourth official, the England Under-19 international secured City’s passage into the last 16 when he kept out Mattock’s low shot.