Walsall 1, Norwich City 2
SLIDESHOW: Late goals from Chris Martin and substitute Cody McDonald enabled Norwich City to stretch their lead at the top of League One in a dramatic fightback against Walsall.
Walsall 1, Norwich City 2
Late goals from Chris Martin and substitute Cody McDonald enabled Norwich City to stretch their lead at the top of League One in a dramatic fightback against Walsall.
City trailed to a Troy Deeney goal with 13 minutes left at the Banks's Stadium, but Martin turned in Wes Hoolahan's corner to level the scores.
Then, with five minutes left, McDonald scored his third of the season with a volley from Hoolahan's ball into the area.
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With second-placed Leeds beaten at Swindon, the Canaries moved three points clear at the top, with 60 points.
Victory stretched their unbeaten run to 15 league games stretching back to October, 13 of them wins.
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Striker Oli Johnson was handed his first start after three brief appearances as substitute. Johnson replaced skipper Grant Holt, starting a three-match ban for his red card against Brentford on Saturday.
Full-back Russell Martin recovered from a hip injury to play, while Danny Kelly was drafted into the 18 as one of the substitutes.
The match, postponed twice previously through a frozen pitch, then heavy snow, was now played on a surface that cut up badly even in the pre-match warm-ups and which was sanded down the touchlines.
Simon Lappin produced City's first effort on target in the 11th minute when he fired through a crowd of players from Oli Johnson's pass, but 'keeper Clayton Ince was right behind it.
Adam Drury was struggling with what looked like a thigh problem and was forced to make way for Stephen Hughes in the 16th minute, with Lappin dropping to left-back.
Defender Michael Nelson also appeared to be hobbling at this stage but battled on without treatment.
Johnson was close to making the breakthrough midway through the half when he beat keeper Ince to Hoolahan's through-ball and chipped goalwards, but Jamie Vincent got back to clear.
Mark Bradley missed one opportunity for Walsall when he pulled his shot wide after good work by Darren Byfield.
Byfield flashed a right-foot shot wide from outside the area after a neat turn.
The Canaries went a goal down 10 minutes before half-time when Troy Deeney got away from Nelson as he pursued Byfield's through-ball and although Lappin almost managed to check his progress, the ball held up enough in the heavy goalmouth for Deeney to slide it home from a tight angle.
Two minutes after the restart, Korey Smith's cross was headed clear and Russell Martin attempted a volley from just outside the Walsall area and narrowly cleared the bar.
Three minutes later, Chris Martin was only just wide with a low left-foot drive after cutting infield and creating space for the shot.
Ten minutes into the half, a great break by Korey Smith almost paid dividends when he played a one-two with Wes Hoolahan but couldn't get a shot in from the return pass and when the ball was played back to Hughes, he sliced a left-foot shot into the crowd.
A foul by Mattis on Hoolahan gave City a free-kick just outside the Walsall area, but Lappin curled his effort straight into Ince's hands.
With 66 minutes gone, Lambert made a double change, sending on Anthony McNamee and Cody McDonald for Korey Smith and Johnson.
Hughes kept City in the contest when he headed off the line to keep out Clayton McDonald's goalbound header midway through the half.
Forster did well to keep out a dangerous effort from Vincent that threatened to creep under the bar as Walsall looked for the killer goal.
With 13 minutes left, however, City were back on terms as Chris Martin grabbed his 18th goal of the season.
The Canaries' 10th corner of the night did the trick as Hoolahan's kick dropped at the far post and with Walsall unable to clear, Martin swivelled to fire home.
There was an escape for Walsall when Hoolahan's next corner bounced on top of the crossbar.
Darel Russell almost provided a stunning second when McNamee found him 20 yards out and his powerful drive was tipped over by Ince.
With five minutes left, substitute McDonald sent City's 1,365 travelling fans wild when he made it 2-1. Hoolahan floated a dangerous ball into the area and McDonald met in on the volley, his effort going in off the post.
Goalkeeper Forster saved from Byfield in stoppage time to preserve City's lead.
Walsall - Ince; Weston, Manny Smith, Clayton McDonald, Vincent; Till (Parkin, 87 min), Mattis (O'Keefe, 70 min), Bradley, Richards; Deeney, Byfield. Subs: Sansara, Nicholls, Taundry, Westlake, Gilmartin.
Norwich City - Forster; Russell Martin, Doherty, Nelson, Drury (Hughes, 16 min); Russell; Korey Smith (McNamee, 66 min), Lappin; Hoolahan; Chris Martin, Johnson (Cody McDonald, 66 min). Subs: Rudd, Whitbread, Gill, Kelly.
Referee - Mark Haywood (West Yorkshire)
Attendance - 5,022
Goals - Walsall: Deeney (35 min). City: Chris Martin (77 min), Cody McDonald (85 min).
Booking - Walsall: Parkin (90 min)