In the end it was ‘Jay-Rod’ who stole the show from his England Under-21 pal Henri Lansbury at Turf Moor this afternoon – Rodriguez bagging an 81st minute winner to condemn the Canaries to a 2-1 defeat.
That, in turn, enabled Nottingham Forest to steal into second spot with a 1-0 win over Watford.
With two games in hand on their nearest rivals for that second automatic promotion spot, it promises to be nip and tuck all the way to the finishing line this spring.
“There’s been times this season when we’ve been beaten and I thought we never deserved it – and that was one of them,” said City boss Paul Lambert, who felt his side had been ‘relentless’ in their pursuit of all three points in the second period – only to slip to their first league defeat in the better part of seven weeks.
The manager did, at least, have the consolation of seeing his skipper Grant Holt return to the score-sheet with a fine leveller after the break.
But in the end it was 21-year-old ‘Jay-Rod’ who will be all smiles as he and Lansbury join up tomorrow for the England Under-21 trip to Italy this week.
“It took us a bit to get into the game,” admitted Lambert afterwards, quizzed by BBC Radio Norfolk after a game that – as ever – brought the weather out.
At least the travelling City supporters were spared the unbridled joy of a last-minute postponement away at Turf Moor.
The Canaries had – as is their wont – slipped a goal behind to Dean Marney’s fine 33rd minute opener, but – again, as is their wont – responded after the interval with the kind of performance that both manager and the ever-faithful Yellow and Green Army have come to expect.
Only this time it came without the result that the supporters at least have come to expect; instead it was the Clarets summoning up the winner in the closing minutes of the contest as new boss Eddie Howe continues to impress.
Burnley are now only five points off the play-off places themselves. This race is likely to run right to the wire.
Ever one to spring a surprise, tactically, Lambert went into battle with three centre-halves – Zak Whitbread, Elliott Ward and Leon Barnett all starting today’s contest.
A three-man back-line, therefore, gives the two full-backs – the returning Adam Drury and Russell Martin – that much more excuse to coin the term ‘wing-back’ as they push up and on.
And with both Lansbury and Wes Hoolahan featuring in an open and inventive midfield, it was a system designed to see Norwich put their very best foot forward from the start.
Or so the theory goes. In practice, it lasted till the interval when Simon Lappin replaced Whitbread and Norwich sought a more familiar look.
“There were certain aspects that were good – and some that were not,” said Lambert, swift to switch things round if it is not yielding the results he is looking for.
Half the bravery comes in making such changes in the first place; not digging your heels in and letting pride stand in your way of a timely change.
Lambert readily admitted it was his call. “That’s my prerogative to pick whatever team that I want, but in the second-half, we were very, very good.”
The goal was certainly out of the top drawer. Hoolahan’s ball back to the edge of the box was certainly inviting enough, but it came at all the wrong heights and angles for the lurking City skipper.
Fair play, however. He re-positioned his body brilliantly to drill a hip-high half-volley inside the far upright for his 13th goal of the season.
“Terrific goal and a terrific ball in by Wes [Hoolahan],” said Lambert, less pleased by the manner in which Jay-Rod grabbed the eventual winner from a set-play. And with good reason.
The far-post delivery should have seen substitute Aaron Wilbraham seeing the danger out.
Instead, he got wrong-sided by the 21-year-old Clarets favourite who then proceeded to stab the ball beyond a stranded John Ruddy.
It was a rare blip in what had been a decent second 45 from the Canaries.
Lambert was still in good heart afterwards.
His team remain one of the division’s best travellers – even if QPR now look odds-on to take the title following their spirited win at Reading on Friday night.
“Performance-wise? There’s not one thing to be worried about. And, as I’ve said before, you pick yourself up and you go again.”
Starting with Reading at home next Saturday.