An 85th minute strike from Robert Snodgrass gave the Canaries everything they deserved from this afternoon’s trip to White Hart Lane.
For some 15 minutes if looked as if Mousa Dembele had returned to haunt the Canaries as his second-half, debut strike following his £15 million switch from Fulham had set Spurs en route to a tight, 1-0 win.
Only the crossbar and a fabulous save from the ageless Brad Friedel had denied Norwich an earlier lead as City more than matched their hosts for 68 minutes.
To complete Norwich’s frustrations, Benoit Assou-Ekotto had half of Steve Morison’s shirt in his hand as he hauled the Canary substitute to the ground deep in the Spurs box before the end – this weekend’s official awarding the foul to the home defender just as last week’s handed the penalty to QPR.
But five minutes from the end – in a manner suggesting that fighting spirits have barely waned since the summer change in management – so Snodgrass found himself free on the penalty spot and calmly planted his first goal in Canary colours into the far corner and for once beyond Friedel.
Tom Huddlestone’s late lunge on Jonny Howson would see Spurs end the contest with ten men and just a point for their continuing Norwich troubles. City could again have disappeared with all three as the excellent Bradley Johnson drilled low and true in the game’s final minute as Morison and Grant Holt pulled the Tottenham defence open only for Friedel to save smartly.
City boss Chris Hughton – on his first-ever return to White Hart Lane as a manager – deserved every credit not least for keeping faith with two up top as Simeon Jackson, fresh from his opening strike of the season against QPR last week, kept his place alongside skipper Holt.
Last night’s late, late loan signing of 19-year-old Spurs striker Harry Kane would, no doubt, keep the Canadian on his toes now that he knows he has big competition for that second striker place.
Indeed, it was a wholly unchanged line-up from that 1-1 home draw against Rangers that sought a repeat of last season’s fabulous away win and, indeed, after eight minutes City’s bright, early endeavours were almost rewarded with the game’s opening goal as Russell Martin thumped a free header against the bar from some 15-yards out off a typically-inviting Snodgrass free-kick.
The former Leeds skipper looks to bring much to the Norwich party – not least a delivery of the ball that looks straight out of the top drawer. Particularly when he has a Holt or a Martin to aim at.
City had certainly started the brighter of the two teams with keeper John Ruddy largely untroubled through the game’s opening 20 minutes as Sabastien Bassong enjoyed his return to North London.
With Norwich keeping their shape well and with a discipline notable only its absence at Craven Cottage, Spurs were left to ping big, hopeful and invariably predictable long balls to left and right. Without ever really turning their visitors. A fact noted by the increasingly frustrated home faithful.
A wonderful, whipped crossed from Howson in the 25th minute forced Friedel into a rushed, punched clearance that eventually fell to a lurking Bradley Johnson who drilled just over from some 25-yards distant. Fulham (a) was, indeed, a distant memory. Or was – until the first substitution of the afternoon.
Whether the presence of Alexander Tettey had focussed his mind again, but Johnson was certainly making his presence felt in that centre midfield. Norwich were the better side; simple as.
It was 30 minutes before Ruddy had to stretch himself; forcefully punching away a swerver from Gareth Bale.
Four minutes from the break and it was 41-year-old Friedel initially stealing the headlines with a magnificent save away to his right after Anthony Pilkington’s equally glorious cross had found Snodgrass alone on the penalty spot. The Canary winger did pretty much everything right as he directed his header back across the Spurs No1 only for Friedel to roll back the years and claw the ball out of his goal.
Come the break and there were jeers at the Lane; all you needed to know about the strength of Norwich’s performance in that opening 45 minutes.
Dembele – fresh from his £15 million switch from Fulham – arrived at the break; hope being among the 2,500-strong travelling City fans that he had left his summer form en route. Alas, no.
Such a change apart, the break brought no immediate shift in the balance of play; City remained neat, tidy and committed. And Tottenham – for now – offered nothing extra.
Pilkington drove a low shot across Friedel just after the hour-mark after Jermain Defoe had wasted an earlier free-kick, a yard outside the City box.
And then came Dembele. Simple ball into his feet from Defoe; a drop of the hip, a switch of the ball; he had half a yard on Howson. A second later and Spurs had their goal.
In theory, that would be it. Game over. In practice, however, Hughton’s men dug deep, went again and delivered both a big performance and a big, big point.