Canary winger Anthony McNamee once again proved a right darling of the Carrow Road faithful this afternoon after his second-half arrival sparked Norwich into life and earned a 2-1 win over visitors Barnsley.
Jay McEveley’s softest of 45th minute free headers had put the Tykes within sight of a real, smash-and-grab success before Paul Lambert’s 63rd minute substitution turned the contest round.
For it was McNamee who persuaded Stephen Foster to direct his cross in off the bar for City’s 70th minute leveller; it was McNamee who, thereafter, had the visitors stretched and on the back-foot as the Canaries pressed on for the winner.
The fact that Jason Shackell was off the pitch at the time of Foster’s indiscretion – sent from the pitch by the referee to receive treatment on ‘cramp’, according to furious Tykes chief Mark Robins – added to the fun and games.
With their tails up and Barnsley suddenly feeling all aggrieved, the stage was duly set for Martin (Chris) to pick his spot inside the far upright to bag another significant winner and drive Norwich on and into that early play-off pack.
“I thought we were terrific from the off,” said Lambert afterwards, as the Canaries slipped into sixth spot – ten points from their opening five Championship games.
“I thought we had a lot of the ball; a lot of the game. And had a fair few chances to get a goal,” he added. “We took a set-back at half-time, but I thought the response was absolutely terrific.”
In fairness to Lambert’s sides, they don’t take such set-backs lightly; they have a habit of plucking victory from the jaws of potential defeats.
“As I’ve said before, we have a great desire to try and win games. “We’ve got great belief in the lads that they will turn it round.” Today they were helped by that 70th minute ‘og’.
“There is an element of luck – but only a small element of luck,” said the City chief. “They give everything they’ve got in their body – and that’s all that I can ever ask.”
The big news pre-match was the disappearance of both keeper John Ruddy and Andrew Surman; for reasons that had yet to be explained.
A ‘dead leg’ and ‘hurt knee’ was Lambert’s post-match revelation; complete with up to a two-month absence for the luckless Surman.
It gave Simon Lappin the chance to reclaim his place on the left-hand side of that famed diamond; it gave young Declan Rudd another opportunity to prove his long-term worth – and to keep his fellow England Youth international Jed Steer snapping at his heels on the bench.
With returning Tykes skipper and soon-to-be father Shackell given a warm welcome on his return to pastures old, it was the Canaries who were the swifter into their stride – albeit without actually forcing an early chance. The mood and the momentum was with them, however.
As evidenced by Lappin’s smart turn and surge to the by-line in the 14th minute; the hanging cross the followed just eluded first Grant Holt and then Korey Smith. Stood impassively on the by-line it was Tykes chief Robins who had more to think about than Lambert.
He certainly had a problem down his right as Lappin and Adam Drury combined time and again. Given it was, likewise, Wes Hoolahan’s more natural habitat, there was much joy to be had in the space Bobby Hassell.
And almost a goal on 28 minutes as Barnsley were once more carved open off that left flank.
Not that any of that counted for much come the half-time point as McEveley pooped the party in no uncertain fashion with the softest of free headers.
Chris Martin looked the one to have been assigned the visiting left-back. If he was, he had long gone by the time the ball was floating in across the Canary box. McEveley was all on his lonesome as he headed the ball comfortably home from some ten yards out.
Norwich had to survive an almighty scare within the first five minutes of the re-start as – for once – Ward and Barnett found their feathers ruffled; Goran Lovre finally lifting the ball just over.
Just after the hour mark and Lambert turned to McNamee to inject some pace into proceedings. Lappin gave way as McNamee looked to stretch the game down City’s right.
Barnsley, you had long-since sensed, would have been more than happy to sit-back and see this one out. That plan went up in smoke on the 70th minute as Korey Smith set McNamee in behind McEveley. Ball won, full-back beaten, he played for the ‘in-off’ off covering centre-half Foster.
He duly obliged by heading the City substitute’s cross in off the underside of the Barnsley bar.
Someone up there still quite liked Mr Lambert.
And better was to come as Master Martin once more stepped up to the plate and took unhurried aim – just when it mattered most.