Justice was – alas – finally done on Merseyside this afternoon after the Canaries came within ten minutes of securing a famous, 1-0 away win at Everton via Grant Holt’s seventh strike of the season.
But after dominating proceedings for much of the contest – Holt’s sweet, 28th minute strike was Norwich’s only effort on target – so Leon Osman’s deflected effort nine minutes from the end of normal time gave Everton the point they deserved.
It made for a bitter-sweet weekend for the Norfolk side – the danger being that the disappointment of not holding out for their second, Premiership away win of the season over-shadowed the real satisfaction that ought to be had from returning home with a point.
Win your home games and nick something on your travels has long been at the heart of Paul Lambert’s thinking and when the dust settles on this afternoon’s events, so today’s result ought to be seen as another big point gained, as opposed to two more lost.
The result took Norwich up into ninth spot; it also found born-again centre-half Russell Martin winning more plaudits as he and his defensive colleagues threw themselves at everything defensively.
Norwich might not have a clean sheet to their name this term, but they have exactly the kind of resilient characters to keep themselves out of the mire. Defeats for both Bolton and Blackburn today ensured it will be a long, hard winter for both Owen Coyle and Steve Kean.
City keeper John Ruddy would have felt the late heart-breaker more keenly than most – he was, of course, deemed surplus to Everton’s requirements and responded today with a string of fine saves as Everton came to dominate in terms of both possession and chances.
Both, of course, count for naught if you can’t convert your chances into goals – or, rather, lack a strike pair in the scoring form of Norwich’s.
“He [Ruddy] hasn’t got anything to prove to me, but he’s come back to a club where he’s been for a few years and some of his saves were excellent,” Lambert told the BBC afterwards.
“But then I thought the back four were excellent. We were throwing our bodies into things and were well worthy of the point.”
The Canary chief opted to stick with the same starting XI that crushed injury-hit Newcastle 4-2 at Carrow Road last weekend; to a man they repaid the manager’s faith with another spirited, backs-to-the-wall display that came so close to delivering the goods.
Certainly, his decision to continue with the Holt-Morison partnership up front paid dividends as Morison – via Phil Jagielka – fed David Fox’s 28th minute free-kick into his strike partner’s feet. From there, however, it was all the City skipper’s own work as he turned delicately on the edge of the six-yard box and directed his final shot in off a far upright.
For those that deem the 30-year-old a mere, one-trick pony in the shape of the two, forceful headers that did for Newcastle last weekend, it was further proof that Holt offers considerable touch and technique for an ‘old fashioned’ centre-forward.
Together with the ever-willing Morison, he causes teams big problems. The pair also score goals on a regular basis – something that a goal-shy Everton dearly yearn for.
“Him [Holt] and Morison linked up well from the free-kick and it was a great finish from Grant,” said the City chief afterwards, with Holt now having bagged goals at either end of Stanley Park following his second-half leveller against Liverpool this autumn.
“But I’m delighted with everybody and I’m delighted with the start that we have made,” he added. “I think everybody tipped us to go down and be bottom at this stage, but we’ve done really fine at the minute.
“I’m delighted for everybody at the football club and we’ll see what happens.”
It should certainly stand the Canaries in good stead for Tuesday night’s trip to Wolves; come what may in the Midlands, there will be a special, festive buzz to Carrow Road on the Tuesday night after Christmas when Spurs come a-calling to Norfolk.
All in all, happy days. Happy days.
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