Just another quiet day at the office….
A seven-goal thriller – the highlights of which were an early goal of the season contender from Wes Hoolahan and a first goal in five years for veteran full-back Adam Drury – left the Canaries 4-3 victors over Leicester City this evening.
Cliché it may be, but this one had the lot. Matty Fryatt would twice pull the Foxes back within touching distance of their hosts – only to be then sent off as he and Leon Barnett clashed in the net some 12 minutes from time.
And it was a night that City keeper John Ruddy might like to forget; he dropped an almighty clanger with just 78 seconds on the clock to hand Leicester a shock opener.
In the end, however, it mattered little as a Hoolahan-inspired City romped their way into third spot. The fact that they leap-frogged over Ipswich in the process – victims of an 88th minute lone goal at Reading – merely added to the sweetness of the night’s events.
“Too open,” was Paul Lambert’s simple verdict afterwards, after what was a real roller-coaster ride.
“And you’ve got to give Leicester credit – they were never out of the game. And they were a threat.”
He had a big word, too, for Hoolahan whose two goals – the first from the penalty spot – rightly earned him the Man of the Match bubbly.
“It took a lot of guts to take a penalty like that at a crucial moment in the game and his second was absolutely brilliant,” said Lambert, hoping that his side could spare him such ‘excitement’.
“I’m only 41 – and I’d like to see it through till I’m 44!” he laughed. “But that’s the way that Carrow Road should be – rockin’!”
If the Canaries were looking to prove a point that Saturday’s home defeat by Hull was but a blip on the path to play-off glory, alas, no-one told Ruddy.
Even once Martyn Waghorn had skipped inside Drury, he still looked to be going nowhere; his shot owed more to hope than expectation. Few could ever have expected what followed as Ruddy merely guided the ball inside his left-hand upright with just 78 seconds on the clock.
In fairness, the response of both players and fans alike was what you had come to expect of late; rightly roused, Drury forced Carl Ikeme into a sharp save minutes later after Hoolahan’s first mazy run of the night. On the plus side, it got the adrenalin pumping – on and off the pitch.
It took half an hour for the leveller to arrive; with a distinct lull in and around the 20-minute mark. But, in fairness, it was a sharp, crisp passing move that opened the Foxes up – Grant Holt teeing up Andrew Crofts who from some 12 yards out comfortably beat Carl Ikeme at his near post.
The former Brighton skipper was enjoying himself; digging in left, right and centre tackle-wise; giving the City back four another relatively comfortable night out. Initially.
Ball of the night likewise belonged to Hoolahan; a peach of a diagonal, 40-yarder on 44 minutes that just ran away from the advancing Holt. The thought was superb; the execution as good.
His reward would arrive eight minutes after the re-start – and from the penalty spot.
Russell Martin’s persistence down the right prompted Tom Kennedy to wave his arm high above his head as the Canary full-back crossed. There wasn’t too much doubt to be had; nor was there much doubt about Hoolahan’s penalty as he swept it confidently away inside the keeper’s left-hand post.
The normal order had been restored; Leicester’s woes were mounting; Norwich’s season was soaring.
Simeon Jackson almost bagged the third moments later with a decent, low drive just before the hour-mark that forced Ikeme into an equally decent save low to his left. Lappin drove one wide as Norwich threatened to run amok.
They did with Drury’s third: Hoolahan the provider with a perfectly-weighted, wedge chip of a pass which the over-lapping City full-back gleefully dinked over the advancing keeper for only his fourth-ever goal for the club.
Not that it was all plain sailing. Substitute Fryatt pinged one in after Leon Barnett had blocked his first effort on the goal-line.
Hoolahan bagged the goal of the game with a glorious, 30-yard dipper only Fryatt to add a third – his second – in the 78th minute. It was his last act of the game. A scuffle with Barnett in the net as he looked to retrieve the ball found him seeing red – in both senses.