City’s travelling faithful were handed a complete heart-breaker tonight as Millwall grabbed a 94th minute leveller to earn a 1-1 draw.
David Fox’s first goal for the Norfolk club looked all set to keep the Canaries driving up into the heart of those early play-off spots – his 75th minute strike into the top corner looking all-but certain to decide this evening’s bitty encounter at the New Den.
In the end, however, and Paul Lambert’s men – masters of the late, late leveller themselves as Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Burnley once again demonstrated – became the victims of someone else’s stoppage time heroics.
In this case it was teenage debutant John Marquis who scrambled the leveller home and ensured that two points were ripped out of Norwich’s hands at the very death.
That all said, the majority of Canary fans would have settled for a 1-1 draw on a night like tonight; win your home games – the majority of them – and nick decent points on your travels; it’s a pretty simple formula to muscle your way into the play-off reckoning.
“This is not an easy place to come and get a result,” Lambert told the club’s official site afterwards, the result leaving City fifth in the table.
“And now they know what it’s like to have a late goal scored against them.”
It is all a bit congested; Portsmouth down in 14th are only three points off the Canaries. The top two clubs apart, it could be unholy scramble for the four play-off places between now and next May.
Again, the fact that the Canaries could head into this evening’s battle with – according to Lambert – seven of his senior players out either suspended or injured and still return home with what remains a decent point, suggests the Canaries can stay the course this season.
The big question for the January transfer window will be whether or not Delia Smith, Stephen Fry and Company can dig deep enough financially to keep Leon Barnett in Norfolk on a more permanent basis.
Once again, his partnership with Elliott Ward at the heart of that City defence provided a solid platform from which to build.
Both Anthony McNamee and Chrissy Martin were handed starting roles after their second-half heroics against the Clarets.
But as Lambert readily admitted afterwards, it was not until after the interval that his City side started to get a real grip on proceedings – McNamee disappearing just after the hour-mark along with Wes Hoolahan.
Perhaps events merely proved that you don’t always know what you’ve got till its gone – and that in the shape of the suspended Andrew Crofts, Norwich missed their ‘heart-beat’ in that opening hour or so.
Indeed, by every account, it needed some fine goalkeeping from John Ruddy to deny the Lions an opening strike before Fox finally broke the deadlock some 15 minutes from the end.
Millwall failed to clear a long throw and following a Grant Holt flick-on, Fox smashed the ball into the top corner from just inside the opposition box.
“It was a cracking shot from the edge of the box to give them the lead – you can’t stop everything,” admitted Lions chief Kenny Jackett afterwards.
Needless to say, he felt justice was done when his 18-year-old starlet popped up four minutes into stoppage time to deliver that Canary heart-breaker.
City appealed long and loud for offside – just as Burnley appealed long and loud for handball against the absent Crofts on Saturday. Once again, the appeal was in vain; the goal stood and someone else had whipped a point out of the jaws of an impending defeat.
“Us scoring in the 93rd or 94th minute, it felt like we’d won,” he said.
“We put a lot of effort in and I’m glad that we got a good point in the end.”