Stockport County 1, Norwich City 3

Skipper Grant Holt struck twice to take his goal tally to 12 for the season as Norwich City took three points at the expense of struggling Stockport.

Holt gave the Canaries the lead in the 16th minute when he headed home from Simon Lappin's free-kick, which goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams allowed to slip through his fingers.

Wes Hoolahan stretched their advantage after 69 minutes from the penalty spot after Chris Martin had been brought down by Paul Huntington.

A goal by Peter Thompson, nine minutes from time, gave the hosts late hope.

But Holt sealed victory when he tucked home a cross by substitute Cody McDonald in the final minute.

It was not one of City's most fluent performances on a difficult surface, but more than 1,200 travelling fans would not have complained at that.

With three right-backs injured in Jon Otsemobor, Michael Spillane and George Francomb, manager Paul Lambert was forced to make one change to his starting line-up, Matthew Gill starting a first team match for the first time since the defeat at Brentford back in August after a lengthy lay-off with a knee injury.

Most Read

Francomb, with a thigh strain, was the man missing from the eleven who started last week's 1-0 win over Swindon.

And it was Adam Drury, making his 300th senior appearance for the Canaries, who was handed right-back duties, with Simon Lappin dropping to left-back and Gill taking Lappin's customary role on the left side of midfield.

Stockport boss Gary Ablett welcomed back leading scorer Carl Baker and Peter Thompson, the two changes from the team that lost 2-0 at Brentford. Danny Pilkington was relegated to the bench, with Greg Tansey ruled out by flu'.

The Edgeley Park pitch looked in poor condition from Sale Sharks' rugby union victory over Gloucester the previous evening, with the rugby markings still visible on the surface and one strip of grass shaved almost bare along the touchline nearest the dug-outs, running nearly the full length of the pitch.

But the game kicked off in autumn sunshine and Stockport threatened for the first time in the sixth minute when Forster's clearance was intercepted by Baker, who let fly with a right-foot shot from outside the area that flew over the top.

With 10 minutes gone, the home side had a golden chance to take the lead when Baker put Thompson clean through against Forster, but the 'keeper closed him down and made a fine save with his right arm to divert the striker's low shot out for a corner - to the delight of more than 1,200 City fans behind his goal.

City were looking rather stretched at the back and Bignall should have done better with the chance to cross from the left, his centre being cut out by Askou.

It took the Canaries 15 minutes to manage an attack of note when Hoolahan set up Gill for a shot that was blocked, but a minute later they took the lead through Holt's 11th goal of the season.

Lappin curled in an inswinging free-kick from the right touchline and with keeper Fon Williams making a hash of an easy catch, the ball slipped through his hands and Holt, jumping behind him, had the simple task of nodding home at the far post.

Three minutes later, Drury almost crowned his big day with a goal when Hoolahan found him inside the Stockport penalty area and his rising cross-shot just cleared the angle of bar and post.

Baker brought Forster into action again with a swerving shot from outside the penalty area, but the 'keeper was right behind it.

Russell tried his luck from long-range as City counter attacked and his shot flashed past Fon Williams' right-hand post.

There was a delay after 25 minutes when Lappin and Mullins collided with the City player doing a virtual somersault before landing on his back, but it was Mullins who needed treatment before play resumed with a free-kick to Norwich.

At the other end, Poole tested Forster with a volley but the 'keeper stood tall and caught it in both hands.

Rose weaved his way into a shooting position as Stockport attacked again, but his effort was high and wide.

Eight minutes before the break, Lappin was shown the yellow card for a blatant block on Poole on the halfway line after the Stockport man intercepted a poor ball by Hoolahan.

Askou made an important clearance at the near post when Rose's ball down the left eluded Drury and enabled Bignall to get in a dangerous cross.


HALF-TIME: Stockport County 0, Norwich City 1


Martin had the Canaries' first attempt of the second period, four minutes after the break, but after creating space for the shot just inside the area, it was charged down.

One minute later, Bridcutt was shown the yellow card for a challenge on Smith, for which the City man required treatment.

But Gill was hobbling far worse at this stage and the luckless midfielder's return to action was cut short when he had to be replaced by Adeyemi.

Excellent work by Holt, squeezing in a cross from tight by the left corner flag, almost gave Smith the chance to make it 2-0 but the midfielder, at full stretch, could not quite make clean contact.

Then Hoolahan forced Fon Williams into action, diving to his left to touch his shot past the post.

Doherty rescued Norwich after 58 minutes when Thompson broke down the left and crossed towards the six-yard box, but the centre-half managed to clear over the bar after the centre took a slight deflection.

Stockport squandered one opening when Mullins broke forward and found Thompson deep in City territory but, in attempting to find Baker, he only succeeded in knocking the ball out of play.

There was a close shave for the Canaries in the 64th minute when Turnbull's excellent cross was allowed to reach Bignall at the far post, but he managed only to scoop his effort over the top.

Drury was booked for a foul on Poole as the home side began to put the pressure on and Doherty twice had to produce heroics to clear dangerous situations.

It came as something of a relief when City stretched their lead after 69 minutes, Hoolahan scoring from the penalty spot.

Holt set the move in motion before being fouled by Rose outside the penalty area, but with play carrying on, Martin took the ball towards the six-yard box and was then chopped down by Huntington, referee Woolmer pointing straight to the spot. After heated argument from the home side, Hoolahan tucked away the spot-kick for his sixth goal of the season, and his third penalty.

It was his final significant contribution to the match, as he made way for McDonald with just under a quarter of an hour left.

Stockport made a double change with 11 minutes left when Pilkington replaced Poole and Johnson replaced Bignall.

And the hosts were back in the game two minutes later when leading scorer Baker's shot from the edge of the area took a big deflection, appearing to come off team-mate Thompson, who was later credited with the goal. Thompson appeared to be in an offside position, but referee Woolmer allowed it to stand despite protests from the City defenders.

McDonald had a header saved by Fon Williams after connecting with a Lappin cross as City tried to restore their two-goal advantage.

With two minutes left, there were appeals for hand-ball as Askou blocked a shot by Thompson, but it seemed to strike him in the chest.

City used their third substitute with one minute left, Nelson replacing Lappin.

In the final minute, Holt wrapped up victory when he sidefooted home from a cross by substitute McDonald.

Holt almost had a hat-trick in stoppage time but was denied by Fon Williams.


RESULT: Stockport County 1, Norwich City 3


Stockport County: Fon Williams; Mullins, Huntington, Raynes, Rose; Poole (Pilkington, 79), Bridcutt, Turnbull, Baker; Thompson, Bignall (Johnson, 79). Subs (not used): Gerrard, Vincent, Griffin, Halls, Havern.


Norwich City: Forster; Drury, Doherty, Askou, Lappin (Nelson, 89); Russell; Smith, Gill (Adeyemi, 51); Hoolahan (McDonald, 76); Holt, Martin. Subs (not used): Rudd, Tudur Jones, McVeigh, Cureton.


Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire)


Attendance: 5,218


Goals: Stockport: Thompson (81). City: Holt (16, 90), Hoolahan pen (69).


Bookings: Stockport: Bridcutt (50). City: Lappin (37), Drury (65), Hoolahan (69).