To Elland back for Forster after slip proves so costly
David Cuffley There comes a time towards the end of every game when the scribes in the Press box attempt to dream up suitable headlines to sum up the 90 minutes they are witnessing.
There comes a time towards the end of every game when the scribes in the Press box attempt to dream up suitable headlines to sum up the 90 minutes they are witnessing.
For every classic such as “Hot Cross Bone Day” - the inspired product of an Easter weekend - 1001 more mundane efforts have appeared in print, but Norwich City's League One clash with Leeds United last night at least had a bit of pun potential.
The Canaries looked as if they may be “Putting a Holt” to United's flying start to the campaign and “Fraser jolly good fellow” summed up their goalkeeper's performance for at least the first 90 minutes at Elland Road.
Had one of the Leeds substitutes conjured up a late winner we might have had “Gradel snatcher” or, worse still, “Kandol in the win”.
But alas, it was Jermaine Beckford - not a great name for the headline writers to work with - who supplied the killer goal two minutes into stoppage time and inflicted City's first defeat in six league games, and only their second in 10 matches since Paul Lambert took over as manager.
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The on-loan Forster, who appeared to have guaranteed his side a point with two excellent saves late on, sliced his goal-kick horribly into the path of the grateful Beckford, who just managed to slide home the winner despite the despairing challenge of full-back Jon Otsemobor.
It was an untimely kick in the grass for the Canaries, who had produced the more polished football for much of an entertaining contest.
It was also their fourth Monday night defeat on satellite TV in the space of six months after reverses at the hands of Reading, Sunderland and MK Dons.
Lambert had promised that City would take the game to Leeds and, with Otsemobor back from injury in place of teenager George Francomb and Stephen Hughes replacing the injured Korey Smith, they did it so effectively that they could have been two goals up inside 12 minutes.
With Leeds down to 10 men after less than a minute while skipper Richard Naylor received attention for a head injury suffered in fouling Wes Hoolahan, they were very much on the receiving end.
Darel Russell very nearly gave City the lead in the sixth minute when he connected sweetly with Jon Otsemobor's cross with a right-foot volley, goalkeeper Shane Higgs getting one hand to the shot but fumbling it and having to leap back to claw it away from the goalline.
With ex-Ipswich defender Naylor back in the action, bandaged like a member of the Gumby family, there was another escape for Leeds in the 12th minute when Higgs saved with his legs from Wes Hoolahan after Simon Lappin and skipper Grant Holt had combined to create a clear-cut opening.
City were made to regret that miss when Leeds went ahead in the 15th minute, Bradley Johnson rising highest to head in at the far post from Robert Snodgrass' flag-kick, their first corner of the match.
Keeper Higgs departed after just 17 minutes through injury, but the hosts began to make more headway and new loan signing Sam Vokes and Beckford both had cause to regret their wayward shooting.
Seven minutes before the break, however, City were rewarded for a fluent spell of play of their own when Holt equalised. Hoolahan, finding no way through, picked out Simon Lappin on the right and his cross to the far post was met by the skipper, getting ahead of goalscorer Johnson to slide the ball home for his 10th goal of the season.
Beckford squandered another chance from the restart when put clear by the impressive Snodgrass and there was a half-chance at the other end when Leeds' substitute 'keeper, Casper Ankergren, flapped at a corner from Lappin but recovered to smother Jens Berthel Askou's follow-up shot.
City were certainly well on top in the second period and midway through the half, Holt forced Ankergren into an important save, diving to his left to keep out a stinging effort.
But thereafter, aided by a double substitution, Leeds for the first time began to look the more likely winners.
Forster kept City on terms when he jumped to his left to brilliantly keep out a goalbound free-kick by Snodgrass.
Then, with seven minutes left, the 'keeper made a superb one-handed save from Beckford when the striker was clean through, and he dived to his left moments later to keep out a shot by substitute Max Gradel, another loan signing.
When Beckford poked another chance straight at Forster, then missed a golden opportunity to wrap up victory in stoppage time by sliding the ball wide from a cross by Gradel, it appeared City would hold on.
But the resulting goal-kick brought catastrophe for Forster, relief for the otherwise unimpressive Beckford in the shape of his eighth goal of the season, and stunned disbelief for City and their army of travelling fans, not to mention those watching on TV.
The contrast between the wild celebrations of Leeds supporters who couldn't believe their luck and the expressions on the faces of City players and their followers summoned up awful memories of 1995. “Yorkshire bitter” indeed, or, in the case of poor Forster, head in hands, “To Elland back”.